Aidan Delaney Column: The GAA Public Are Tired Of Tradition

So now, no one is happy….

Not the dreamers who preached egalitarian virtues of competition for all and not the naysayers who screamed too much too soon. Saturday’s round up of the wise old sages of Gaelic Games lead to an unintentional backing of the status quo and a chance for change goes a-begging like a striker bearing down on goal.

Proposal B, we hardly knew you. Well actually, maybe we knew too much. Talk of championship restructuring and financial plans dominated the airwaves to such an extent, it was a relief to see our top journalists actually discuss matches.

Special Congress isn’t really supposed to grab the headlines as much as it did but the last few weeks has shown that the GAA public are tired of tradition. 

Man of the people John Horan brought the motion to the great elders. It came with promises of renewed life for the so called weaker counties, a chance to dust down the boots more than twice a summer.

After some haggling over money, which is a national pastime, the strange new world would almost fill the coiffeurs just as much as the current format. Job done.

The players backed it; Tom Parsons of the GPA trying to tug at the heartstrings by regaling tales of the old warriors returning from a mauling to titters from their adoring public.

More games, more quality, more airtime and more opportunities to prove that the association can back up it’s oft repeated mantras of fairness and community. How could you back against that, right?

Well, some of us found a way. The least surprising act of the weekend came in the two letter response from the majority of Ulster counties. The Anglo Celt cup is worth protecting in their eyes and it’s a stance that’s hard to argue with.

The province has rewarded the long suffering fan with glimpses of glory and given the likes of Cavan (2020) and Armagh (2008) days out that they won’t forget. We do have to slightly ignore that those days remain the exception rather than the rule with Donegal, Tyrone and Monaghan carving the last 13 of 15 titles between them.

The reluctance to frontload the tournament to the springtime also betrays a sense that maybe a cup by itself isn’t enough and that the progression on the road to Sam might play a bigger role than those famous Clones clashes suggest at first. 

Frankly, the other main critique came from self-interest. Galway, Mayo and Kerry complained about the poor Division 1 teams that might miss out on the big dance because of their league standing.

‘We are the ones who made this possible’, they say, and ‘we should have a say in the final stages’. Now, perhaps I’m overly harsh, but if powerhouses such as those find it difficult to finish in the top 5 of an 8 team table, then maybe the emperor’s clothes have gone walkabout.

Four points from a possible fourteen doesn’t sound like champion form and maybe their loss would be the gain of someone more deserving if slightly less glamourous. An annual competition should boost up the best teams of that year and some time away might be the best thing that could happen to the fading giants.

Ultimately, the Congress set up to discuss formats was suffering from a formatting problem itself. A motion that was quietly hushed from the floor would have challenged the current level of votes dedicated to oversea members of the association.

Rightly, it was decided that now was not the time with those in the firing line unable to defend themselves in the room and it’s a fight for another day. But this battle can’t be put off forever. It’s hard to criticise without getting a little isolationist because the thought behind the measure is a good one.

The GAA’s efforts to grow the game abroad while keeping a link to the diaspora is exactly what we want to see. But 38 votes? Bear in mind, the eleven counties that make up Connacht and Munster have two fewer. The hand extending across the oceans may have to be reined in a bit to give those living under the restrictions a say in their future.

What are we left with then? Well turn the clocks back to 2017 and leave the Super 8s in the bin of history. The Leinster championship remains to suck the life out of every big ball lover on this side of the country. A competition so uninspiring, even the Dubs have come out against it. Division 4 counties will have to accept that their summer is in January, up is down and left is right.

The hurling snobs will scoff and secretly thank their lucky stars that they introduced their tiered championship pre social media. The small ball will dominate the TV schedule and football fans will look on jealously like Homer Simpson trying to assemble a BBQ.

And yet while the muttering continues and the gloom has set in for now, there are reasons to be cheerful. An eight-vote swing would have taken the day, so the task is not an insurmountable one.

The revolutionaries may get another go at the Annual Congress in February when we do it for real this time.

Next season will introduce the Tailteann Cup which, as long as it’s marketed and covered correctly, might give the likes of Wexford something to cling to as the sun beats down in June. A delayed decision was always going to cause frustration but we now have the freedom to achieve freedom. 

Practice soloing on your left lads because the times they are a-changing .

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