Oddities and unfairness – that’s the GAA folks!

As most or all of you will know by now, I lost my da on June 10th. Six months into his 92nd year. Don’t let anyone ever tell you you’re ready for it, you never are. When the inevitability of what was ahead became obvious a day or two before he actually passed, this corner resolved to assume control of dealing with the undertakers. My way of coping, for a while at least.

In some ways, it’s only in the aftermath of it all that the enormity, the finality of it all really hits. And, in hindsight, the grieving begins properly. You know, it’s the ‘simple’ things that wallop the hardest. A letter coming in still addressed to him, a race or match being on the telly where my reflex instinct is to roll down to the kitchen for a dissection of the action or – by far the toughest one for me – this being the busiest and best time of the farming year – cattle being bought in or sold, and/or hay, silage or the harvest being in full swing.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the latter factor which has been hammering me most of late. Truth is, this week at least, all three areas have combined to completely wallop me. With several Meath teams going well, anyone who follows me on Instagram (@this_disabled_life) will have seen da’s flag going up earlier this week. And the farming angle to things scarcely needs any elaboration this time of year. Yet it was the combination of GAA and farming that really stoked and emotional volcano earlier in the week.

St Peter’s, Dunboyne has always been and will always be an intrinsic part of my life. Regardless of what form that role takes. It has always been thus with our family. Whether that was with da and his brother Tom as players or his brother Jimmy serving as Treasurer for 33 years or yours truly working in the PR department for 11 years.

However, what weaves all that into today’s ramble is the actual football field itself. You see, on the last two occasions what is now the club’s home was in agricultural use,it was us that had it. Firstly before it became a football field. Back at the time of the ‘Big Snow’ of 1982. Which was so bad that in order to feed the cattle himself and his brother Billy were outwintering up there was throw the square bales of straw in over the gate.

Then, in 2017, when it became apparent that the ‘training square’ at the back of the far goals had bevome too overgrown for the club’s own mower to handle, with the help of local farmers Terence McGovern, Seamus Maguire and Justin Walsh, I managed to get a decent number of bales of silage off it.

We were on a winner with our GAA bales

That, somewhat tearfully, from a personal perspective, was recalled during the week. For clarity, the excretion of ocular fluid was in yearning for a part of life that, for now at least, has been taken from me. The waterworks were not in any way related to the re-incarnation of the piece of ground in question.

After all, with the publication of a ‘progress report’ issued by the club pertaining to the development of our all weather training pitch, it signified a return to what it was originally intended for. But eons removed from the poorly lit, muddy square that was our any port in a storm when the pitch itself could have been more useful for sailing!

Now though, years of dreaming, hoping, grafting, sweat, tears and probably the odd bit of spilt blood have paid off as the latest part of the club’s development plan becomes a reality. And how poignantly fitting that is coming so soon after our Commander-In-Chief of fundraising, Myles Fahey, went to sell Lotto tickets up yonder.

Of course, though such expansion of our facilities have been in the pipeline for many years, they couldn’t have come on stream at a more apt time with the continuing expansion of the area demographically. Also, coming as it did shortly after it was confirmed that Kepak would once again be investing significantly in the development of underage structures within our club.

All of the above was to the forefront of the thought stream here recently when trying to decipher some of the oddities and unfairness being doled out at various levels of the GAA of late. At best, it counts as rank bad organisation, at worst it could be termed discrimination. Yes, some of the instances you will read of hereafter involve Meath teams but it wouldn’t matter if it were the Jimmy Magee All Stars, it still wouldn’t be right.

First off, there was the Meath and Derry U-20 hurlers having to to play their All Ireland B Final on a Wednesday evening in Newry. At this point it should be stated that there is absolutely no problem with the venue. In fact, Pairc Esler is one of this corner’s favourite venues in the country. Especially when it comes to disabled viewing facilities. The only cause of disgruntlement pertaining to said fixture was the fact that it wasn’t played in Croke Park

If a competition really is regarded as an All Ireland, the final thereof should at least be played in GAA HQ. Mind you, whatever about playing the ‘B’ Final at another venue, it surely must have been possible to fit the U-20 ‘proper’ final in the big field. Though to avoid feelings of classism and elitism, all flnals should be in there.

Being honest, the really baffling and frustrating thing about the fixture situation is that both the All Ireland senior football and hurling finals were left as stand alone fixtures. Instead of having the Minor finals as curtain raiser for the senior finals.

The irony of commenting on this subject matter at a time when Meath have just collected the Tom Markham Cup for the fourth tine as curtain raisers to the senior semi final between Tyrone and Kerry is not lost on this corner.

Liam Kelly raises the Tom Markham Cup aloft

What surely must irk some people though, most obviously in Cork, is the fact that the Minor hurling final wasn’t played in Croker, as was the football final. The lunacy of the above only accentuated by the fact that it took place the night before the Rebel County contested the senior final. Two games at two different venues, 100 miles apart. That’s without mention of the fact that the red and white also contested and won the U-20 hurling final three days earlier.

All Ireland U-20 HC Final action

Here, an already messy situation becomes even more entangled. The manner in which the Cork fixtures were laid out was chaotic enough, but now the question must be asked, why was there a difference in policy regarding venues for the hurling and football finals.

The curious situation becomes even more so when it’s considered that the semi finals of the underage competitions in either code weren’t played in Drumcondra either – another break with tradition.

As I’m sure it also was for a team to have home advantage in an All Ireland semi final. Yet that is exactly what befell the Meath camogie team for their ICC semi final against Kilkenny. Sometimes all you can do is scratch your head!

Cork youngsters celebrate their Minor win

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