In recent weeks the GAA have announced that there will be an open day for supporters in every county to meet members of both football and hurling squads.
It’s a drive to promote both codes and to link the supporters with the players in a hope to get the fans coming back to the games again.
It could also be perceived that those in charge believe that with the Irish soccer team in the Euro championships for the first time in twenty odd years and the Olympics on during the summer supporters may choose to stay at home and watch their sport from the comfort of their sitting rooms.
Then you have the surge in support for rugby in the last few years and the fact that Ulster and Leinster with contest the Heineken Cup final will have also sent shivers through those who believe that all the negative talk about the way that football is now played might encourage youngsters all over the country to choose rugby or soccer before their national games.
It is hoped that having an open day that especially the younger supporters if they get to meet the players face to face, get the autographs and the pictures that it would give them a greater encouragement to go to the games, but I’m not to sure that this is either needed or necessary because whatever game youngsters want to play they are going to do it anyway.
Both the F.A.I and the I.R.F.U have coaches in both national and secondary schools all over the country and rugby clubs are sprouting up all over the country.
The threat of other codes, as described by many members of the GAA and not a term I would use myself, would not be a threat if we didn’t as a organisation shoot ourselves in the foot so many times.
We consistently do this sort of public relations bull when Ireland reach a major competition, but I know some of the greatest Irish supporters who would travel all over the world to watch the Republic play but will not miss a club or county match.
I remember playing in the Athletic Grounds in Armagh on the day that Ireland beat England, thanks to a header from Ray Houghton. There was a cheer from the crowd and one of the Armagh players went to ground; the physio passed on the news of the goal and the game carried on. We couldn’t get out of the dressing rooms quick enough to see the second half and even though we lost, the defeat was made easier with the victory over England. Did that feeling make us bad GAA men?
When rugby was allowed into Croke Park and Ireland played England did it make us bad GAA people to want to support the team and watch with pride in the performance they gave in the heartland of the GAA? Of course not and I don’t believe that the idea of one code snatching players from another code is that relevant.
The individual in that position will make the decision that is best for themselves. Of course soccer and rugby have huge advantages over the GAA but it is what it is and no amount of open days or public relations spin will make it any different.
Has anyone asked the question why less that 30,000 people turned up to watch four National League finals at the weekend in Croke Park?
The GAA did everything in their power in trying to get people to attend; reduce prices, let children in free but what is out of their hands is the cost of travelling to games, especially with the price of fuel.
If you looked at the sports section of many of the national papers last Monday there was more space given to the Manchester derby and Leinster’s win at the weekend than the four National League finals put together but you can be sure when the championship starts and Dublin, Cork and Kerry are in action the GAA will get their fair share and what many parents might tell those in charge is that there is a greater threat from Playstation or the Xbox than there is from the real games.
You know the summer is with you when the championship comes around. This weekend Kilcar will play Malin in Towney in the preliminary round. Kilcar have started the year off well and many believe that they are assembling a squad that will match the likes of Glenties and St Eunan’s. Paddy McBrearty, the three McHughs and Michael Hegarty form a very strong unit who are capable of beating anyone on their day. Malin have won three, drawn one and lost won in Division Two this year and as usual they are hard to beat; they never give up the fight but are very reliant on Anthony and Paddy Kelly along with Declan Walsh. Kilcar have the momentum at the moment and with home advantage should have enough to get the first leg win.