No place for the young or the old, the brave and the bold better watch out

“The young, the old, the brave and the bold came their duty to fulfil”… 
So goes one of the verses in Spancil Hill – as best performed by the late Jim McCann. That subject is non negotiable. In GAA terms, it’s not so much fulfilling a duty as engaging a passion. Wearing your heart on your sleeve. Tribal, parochial loyalty. Often dreaming the impossible dream. Still, we continue to return to the well. Convinced this time the bucket will come up full.
It can only do so for one. “I awoke in California, many miles from Spancil Hill”. Translation – you can dream what you like, but what will be, will be.

The opening rounds of the club championships in all GAA codes allow everyone to dream of their Spancil Hill, yet all but the chosen few will wake up before getting there.
Look, in many ways I totally understand the age old ethos which decrees the club is the centre of the GAA universe. There are reasons I vehemently disagree with that viewpoint, but there’s no need to roll them out again. 

What will be said, though, is that, while people mightn’t like it, there are elite teams at club level too. The other side of that coin, mind you, is that there are teams who will quite possibly never harvest the gold. 
You know it. They know it. Yet year after year they front up, putting in the same commitment and effort as the perceived top teams. Maybe more so. And, undoubtedly, the most special tenet of that is to see what we’ll call vastly experienced campaigners still in the trenches. 
It’s always something which I greatly admire, but lately it has been to the forefront of the mind for a different, more annoying and upsetting reason. You see, you wouldn’t need to be prone to paranoia to arrive at the conclusion that neither the young nor the old(er) are to the forefront of the priority list within the Brains Trust of the GAA. 

Within the past week, I had a visit from a former Meath footballer – who asked to remain anonymous – from well down the county, but now resident locally. The purpose of his visit? To thank me for writing the piece extolling the virtues of the All Ireland JFC. 
He had represented Meath with distinction in the grade several decades ago and was at pains to declare that the All Ireland medal he garnered therein meant as much to him as any collected by players in All Ireland Finals over the last few and/or next few weeks will. 
Not to mention the memories and friendships which will shine long after the medals need a shot of Brasso. Representation is important, and something which players take great pride in. 
However, it would appear within the corridors of power that the stars of the past and future don’t matter. What other conclusion could one reach when seeing the way the Jubilee teams have been treated in Croke Park recently? Furthermore, if the All Ireland JFC gave players the opportunity to represent their counties that might never arise otherwise. The same used to apply regarding young players and the opportunity to grace the big field on Jones’s Road until the Minor games were shamefully taken out of Drumcondra. 

It has always been tradition to invite a team back to GAA HQ a quarter century after they had won one of the senior All Irelands. The idea being that players – or their representatives if they are unfortunately deceased – be introduced to the crowd in the gap between the end of the Minor final and the teams taking the field for the main attraction. 
But now of course – for reasons best known to themselves – the ‘Male GAA’ – if they could be titled thus – have completely destroyed their two All Ireland Senior Final days. 
Firstly, and ridiculously, taking the Minor finals out of Croke Park altogether – meaning that there’s now no curtain raiser before the big one. Secondly and more insultingly though, they now treat the Jubilee teams like, to paraphrase Anthony Daly, the dirt on their footwear. 
Barely introducing the players to whatever percentage of the overall attendance happens to be in situ at the time. Then not even playing the song associated with the county in question. 
The real elephant in the room, though, is the shameful treatment of the All Ireland Minor Finals. There should be no such thing as stand alone fixtures in Croke Park, especially on the two biggest days on the GAA’s calendar. The place is grossly underutilised as it is. Their reason for taking the Minor finals out of Croker? Because the grade was (crazily and needlessly) switched to U-17!
How, why and where does that make sense? Answers on a postcard please. 

One thought on “No place for the young or the old, the brave and the bold better watch out

Leave a Reply