The news that David Bentley had made his Crossmaglen Rangers debut on Wednesday night went down a treat with GAA fans. Could he be the one to start a new trend?
Bentley, capped seven times for England and former Arsenal, Blackburn and Tottenham winger has turned his attention to Gaelic football after retiring prematurely from professional football last year at the age of 30.
Bentley switched codes as part of a television documentary and made a name for himself on the GAA scene after scoring three points on his debut from centre-forward for the Armagh side.
Bentley will be living the life of a gaelic footballer as part of the documentary and will also work for Kernan’s property letting company an estate agent for the duration of his stay.
As part of the same documentary, ‘The Toughest Trade’, renowned Armagh All-Star and recently retired Aaron Kernan, will perform the opposite and train with Sunderland AFC and live the life of a professional footballer.
It is also rumoured that Kilkenny corner-back and hurling All-Star, Jackie Tyrell will try out life as a professional baseball player in Florida.
Whatever about baseball players becoming hurlers, is there a possibility for professional soccer players to make the move cross-channel after retiring from their soccer life and pursue a career in gaelic football?
With the help of Sky Sports, the GAA is growing in popularity all over the world and in England in particular. It is not as far-fetched an idea as people may think.
Many decorated soccer stars are heading to America to ply their trade in the MLS as a way of finishing off their careers. Would lining out as a club footballer be another solution for players that can’t fulfil the demands of constant week on week, 90-minute matches in the Premier League?
It may not be as glamourous as the idea of playing in the MLS or in Australia for that matter, but as a way of staying fit, and leaving the world of professionalism behind, Gaelic football seems like a perfect match for a player who wants to take a step back from the limelight.
The recent AIB All-Ireland club semi-finals between St.Vincents and Corofin and Slaughtneil and Austin Stacks proved to be thrillers, and one would have to say that the profile of these games would be raised significantly by the presence of recently retired soccer stars.
With this idea, there may be a few obstacles. There may be an opposal to the matter, by homegrown club die-hards who may lose their place on the team if former soccer stars were to be parachuted into their club team.
The financial matter will not be a big issue. These particular players will have built up enough money throughout their careers to be able to spend a year or two in Ireland plying their trade as amateurs.
While raising the profile of Gaelic football, these former soccer players could also raise the profile of soccer by acting as ambassadors, keeping their connection with their beloved game.
Steven Gerrard will depart Liverpool at the end of the current season to head to L.A. Galaxy in America so unfortunately, for him, he has missed his chance.
However, fancy heading in as a full forward to see John Terry marshalling the square? Or seeing Wayne Rooney popping scores from the outside of his boot on St. Patrick’s Day?
This may soon happen…
Seán Ó Murchú, Pundit Arena