It seems Colm “the Gooch “Cooper has upset many people within the GAA circle. The Kerry legend is to be honoured at a testimonial dinner in the Intercontinental Hotel in Dublin. The event is being sponsored by Zurich Insurance with 500 quests to attend at €500 a pop.
Two charities well benefit from the night as well as Cooper. The Kerry Support Cancer Group and Our Lady’s Children’s hospital in Crumlin.
Testimonial dinners have been around for a long time, with many soccer and rugby internationals taking advantage of the tax free gala dinners. Indeed stars from all sports have taken advantage of such evenings but the only difference this time is “the Gooch” is a GAA player, an amateur.
While Croke Park have given the all clear for the event they have said publicly they are unhappy at such an event and many of the usual GAA pundits have come out totally against the idea.
I have no problem with Cooper making a few euro out of the evening. Is he not entitled to make a few bob on the back of his popularity and his talent for the last 15 years as a player? If companies and individuals would like to be associated with such a popular sportsman is he not entitled to reap the benefits?
We allow highly paid professional athletes, who have plied their trade in other countries, to come home and receive such rewards. Yet one of our own, who has thrilled supporters the length and breadth of this country and beyond with his undisputed talent, is being frowned upon for such an act.
Many within the GAA seem to believe that it affects the amateur status. Others are suggesting that such an event is not in keeping with the ethos of the GAA. And, of course, there are those who deep down would rather players would just play and after that just go away.
Does it affect his amateur status? It’s hard to see where there is an argument for that. People are paying for the privilege of sitting down to dinner with one of the greatest Gaelic footballers of his generation. If a player were to get paid for playing, well that could be conceived as a breach of the rule. However, it could be said that many others within the GAA circle have flouted the amateur status rule for years without even a whisper. In fact numerous investigations have taken place without uncovering any evidence yet the practice continues in front of our very eyes.
Does it affect the ethos of the association? If you asked me that question 20 years ago I would have answered you differently than I would today. The association has lost any resemblance of the community based sporting body it once was. It has, like every other body, sporting and otherwise, moved on with the times. To be fair it had to. Without a huge financial investment the GAA would have lost ground on other sporting bodies so it reacted by changing the way it did its business.
We opened Croke Park and made millions. We are in the process of doing up several county grounds around the country for two purposes; one is they need to be brought into the next century but theother is the fact the Rugby World Cup maybe coming our way and those very same grounds are part of the bid. Am I being too cynical?
As I said earlier I have no problem with Cooper having his dinner. I also have come to terms with the direction in which I believe the GAA is going in terms of county and club. We all have to be realistic that we live in times when the corporate world rules; you either hop on board or you live in the past. But you can’t say that players are not entitled to take advantage of the very same corporate world as the rest of the organisation do or they could be considered a shade hypercritical.
Then there is the great Irish sin of begrudgery. Can we not be happy for someone who played the game at the highest level for years, both in good times and bad, to get just a bit of reward? Is he not entitled to such a reward? Many might suggest that Kerry, his club, and the GAA have been good for Colm Cooper, and they are one hundred percent right but the question I would pose back is: Where would they all be without the Gooch and those like him? For too long we have failed to acknowledge players; we have hailed managers as messiahs, yet I never seen one kick a ball over the bar to win a game. We hail administrators for the endless unseen work, and rightly so, but what do they do it for, if it is not for the games. We forget when young children are growing up, do they not dream of being the next Colm Cooper, Michael Murphy or Joe Canning.
Need I say any more.