The GAA is seen by many as the cornerstone of Ireland’s national culture. Some say that it epitomises what is great about this country as it showcases our most unique product. But is this true? Or are the GAA starting to lose its grip on what makes it so great?
This is not the first time this year that this writer has gone to the keyboard to express concerns regarding the GAA. The amateur organisation that brings communities together has shown too much of a lack of regard and respect for the people who make the organisation what it is.
As we all know GAA stands for Gaelic Athletic Association, but one could argue that they are starting to stand for something different; Greedy As Always.
The GAA now seems to be engrossed in greed. Pay days and publicity appear to be the order of the day. The GAA will argue that almost all of the money that they receive is being pumped back into clubs all over the country, but these facilities are of little use when clubs hardly get a chance to play games.
The club situation is an argument previously expressed on this website and now the latest decision to locate the All-Ireland semi-final replay in the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick has affected the association’s top entertainers.
First and foremost, this article comes from a person with very little compassion for intercounty GAA players. There is a full acceptance and admiration for the time and effort that they put into their respective games, but it is a choice and a privilege to play Gaelic Games at the highest level and not a chore that it can often be made out to be.
There are some rewards financially despite the fact that players are not directly paid and the prestige involved nowadays has almost all players in the limelight making a lot of them front runners for jobs among other things.
Being an intercounty GAA player is a good thing with plenty of perks involved and more often than not, players are treated very well. But the way in which Kerry and Mayo’s footballers have been treated ahead of their replay is disgraceful. There is no other word to describe their actions.
They have shown a complete disregard for the people who are the real entertainers and the people who bring in more income for the Association than anybody else.
A college American Football game between Penn State and University of Central Florida being allowed to take place in Croke Park a day before an All-Ireland football semi-final and two weeks before an All-Ireland hurling final is not on, for any sum of money.
GAA headquarters is GAA headquarters and while it is one of the country’s most valuable assets, there is a time and a place for outside events to be held in what is one of Europe’s, if not the world’s, finest stadiums. Allowing Six Nations matches to be held there was not a problem, as it did not interfere with any primetime GAA action.
Hosting outdoor concerts in the winter may not be a goer making three summer events acceptable but three should be the limit. The Garth Brooks fiasco was an embarrassment to the nation and was beyond disappointing to many people (including this writer) who missed out on a once in a lifetime opportunity, but the principle of allowing Garth Brooks to play five nights in a row in Croke Park only days before the All-Ireland football quarter-finals was massively incorrect and it almost felt like the cancellation was a justified punishment for the GAA as a result of their greed.
Three concerts at the beginning of the summer is enough as it makes the venue vacant and available for its primary use. Some people may counter this argument by stating that Croke Park is overused for teams like Dublin, who constantly have home advantage, but the overall realistic argument is that any person who lifts up a hurley or kicks a Gaelic football dreams of taking to the field at Croke Park.
Some get the opportunity on a regular basis, while there are many, possibly too many, who never get close.
The least any GAA player should expect is to be playing their All-Ireland semi-finals and finals at the Jones’s Road venue. No exceptions should be made. A proper NFL game would hardly be enough to justify moving an All-Ireland semi-final away from Croke Park, not to mind a college game. The GAA have really made a complete mess of everything in this situation.
Their true colours are starting to become more and more evident. They are still claiming to be an amateur organisation but continue to act in ways that could potentially ruin this ethos. ‘Money talks’ is becoming far too prominent as the pay cheques and euro signs are growing and growing and becoming far too appealing to this in charge, and while this is going on, they expect the people who bring this money in to stay silent.
Professionalism and ‘pay for play’ would absolutely destroy Gaelic Games but the current actions of the GAA are doing nothing to prevent this threat. Again, this is written by somebody who is slow to defend intercounty players, but they can only be looking at the stances currently taken by the GAA and wonder what more do they have to do to get justified recognition.
It is now at the stage where they are not even being allowed to play an All-Ireland semi-final in Croke Park.
The occasion itself in Limerick could be very good. A packed smaller stadium could lead to a great atmosphere and so on. But the reasons for playing the replay between Mayo and Kerry in the Gaelic Grounds are unacceptable. A big pay day is the only reason as to why this game is not being played at GAA HQ and this is yet another case of greed and selfishness by the powers that be.
So should the three words Gaelic Athletic Association be rebranded to Greedy As Always?
Greed is now becoming the most common and important aspect of the GAA and the biggest stakeholders are being pushed aside far too easily. The suits in the top chairs and main positions need to have a serious look at themselves, their actions and their principals, or we are in massive danger of losing what the GAA is all about.
Sean Cremin, Pundit Arena.