Breaking Ball - Eugene McGee’s autobiography best book on Christmas market

Breaking Ball - Eugene McGee’s autobiography best book on Christmas market
At this time of the year lots of books are published - celebrities, sports people and politicians get on the gravy train for the Christmas holidays.

At this time of the year lots of books are published - celebrities, sports people and politicians get on the gravy train for the Christmas holidays.

Most of them will in one way or another touch on most of the same things throughout their lives but once every so often one will come along - especially from a GAA background - that will get you to sit up and take notice.

A couple of weeks ago Eugene McGee, who managed Offaly to All-Ireland success in 1982, released his autobiography. I am not going to go into the details of what McGee has been to the world of GAA but usually when he talks he does with authority. He knows exactly what’s going on and is not afraid to say what has to be said.

In his book he tells of his many experiences throughout his life in the GAA, but what might surprise people is what he has predicted for the GAA in the years ahead.

The headline that caught most people’s attention was he believes that because of the commitment that county players are being asked to give, it’s only a matter of time before the prospect of paying players will be a reality.

Of course there will be many within the Association that will rubbish such claims and that the amateur status of the organisation is as strong as ever. McGee disagrees. He asserts that some county managers are getting as much as €50,000 a year and that leading players can demand as much as €10,000 for commercial activities. He also claimed that players were switching clubs in exchange for money or benefit-in-kind - especially in Dublin.

He believes that all this is going on with the full knowledge of those in charge in headquarters and nothing is being done about it. McGee makes the point that there has been a watering down of the rules regarding amateur status that has allowed money to flow through the GAA that would not have happened 20 or 30 years ago. He believes that the rule will continue to be watered down because the GAA are unable to control what is going on.

Of course we all know he is right but again the problem is it’s very hard to prove that club managers or trainers are getting paid other than expenses for their services. But while many may dodge the issue because of that lack of proof McGee says it anyway.

On the professionalism issue he goes into great depth on how it happens how it should be handled.

Of course the stronger counties would be able to pay more and there could be a exodus of the best players from the weaker counties to the stronger ones. He suggests that the GAA would keep a strong control on intercounty transfers so restricting the movement of these players.

However I would find it hard to believe that players would become mercenaries overnight but you never know and with the way the rules within the Association can be applied it can easily happen; remember the Kildare hurler or was he a Cavan footballer?

A lot of what McGee says in his book has been out there for a long time and much of what he writes makes great sense but ultimately he is well aware, like many of us are, that there would be a concerted effort by many members not to allow this to happen. Like McGee, I believe that those people are fewer and fewer.

People have grown to understand that the commitment that is being asked of these young men has outgrown the rules and ideals of a hundred years ago.

No longer is it possible to get a job or a handy number because you are a county player. Indeed I would suggest the opposite is probably the truth. What employer would want to give one of their workers the time off necessary to train and commit to the demands of many county managers?

McGee also has a go at lots of county managers and blames them for the mess of club fixtures. Of course we are more than well aware of these problems in Donegal over the years but I am sure he can’t apportion all the blame on the managers.

I was always under the impression that the clubs directed the county committee on how they wanted things to proceed, not the other way around.

McGrr also suggests that now more that ever the GAA are under threat from other sports such as rugby and soccer. He believes that because television is saturated with both these sports and the fact that live GAA games are only shown between the months of May and September is one of the main reasons.

Also he suggests that most young lads now have aspirations of playing sport professionally and at the moment the GAA don’t offer that.

Of course he touches on many more points and his opinions are certainly his own, but what makes McGee unique in my view is that he has served that GAA in all the roles possible, from player, manager and administrator, but for an administrator to come out with such controversial ideas and criticisms of how the GAA conduct their business is surprising.

He has never found it hard to move with the times but at the same time consider the values that have made the GAA the organisation that it his. Few people have managed such feats.

While the autobiographies of Roy Keane or Brian O’Driscoll will get most of the headlines, Eugene McGee’s ‘The GAA In My Time’ would certainly make someone’s Christmas.