Comhghairdeas Gaoth Dobhair! You have done county Donegal proud. This is a tremendous achievement for everybody concerned with this GAA club. Sunday was a special day for all Donegal GAA people as Gweedore took the Ulster club crown back to the county for the first time since St. Joseph’s won it back in 1975. Happy days. Meanwhile, important issues in respect of club versus county are coming to the fore. I would like to begin with the following statement:
"This tells us clearly that the Association is fast becoming a corporate elitist body whose leaders have lost sight of the GAA’s central ethos; a community-based Gaelic games and culture organization with the club at its very core”( Roscommon Club Players’ Association county co-ordinator Tommy Kenoy’s response to the GAA’s Central Council after his county’s motion on national fixture reform was voted down).
The CPA’s statement also said "Central Council met last Saturday and did not properly observe the democratic process in reaching their decision”. Well, well! So, at last we’re beginning to see the forest from the trees. The GAA are not really interested in the CPA or for that matter, the GPA (Gaelic Players’ Association). The latter has made some headway with the bosses in Croke Park and so too will the former in the not too distant future.
I totally agree that our top administrators have lost touch with grassroots GAA. For the majority of Gaelic games followers, it starts with the club. This is where our youngsters are nurtured and harnessed. It is here that senior players ply their trade and sacrifice a normal life to represent their community with pride and valour. The county versus club issue is growing as each season passes. Bringing an amateur game into the corporate arena was always going to bring disharmony. It’s almost at tipping point and something has to give. Inter-county players, who are playing too many games, are being dragged all over the shop; from club to county from January to December while many clubs are idle during the summer months. Without the clubs, the GAA has nothing.
The CPA state on their website “A core objective of the Club Players Association is to establish a regular playing season for clubs and curbing the pervasive influence of the county scene on the fixtures calendar of club players the length and breadth of Ireland.
It is the desire of club people, that fixtures for clubs are set out in a definitive manner rather than the current situation whereby club games are vying for space in the calendar alongside national league and championship fixtures at inter-county level. This is just one issue facing the modern club GAA player here in Ireland”. The GAA are side-lining clubs in preference for the more lucrative and financially beneficial inter-county scene. The GAA is a professional body trying to impose an amateur ethos. It doesn’t work and now we are experiencing the difficulties that corporate elitism entails.
I’m sure that the individuals comprising Central Council started their careers in a voluntary capacity as a meagre club official at some stage and may have even played the game. Yet, when power grabs hold and groupthink take over, a different mindset develops.
Is the whole GAA conundrum not a template of what the ordinary person now experiences in ordinary life? The CPA refers to community, culture and democracy. We are made to believe that we live in a democracy. The people may believe that we have a say. All you have to do is look into the government’s Project Ireland 2040 initiative. Did the people have a say on this? Few are aware that our people in power intends to grow our population by 1 million people over the next couple of decades, i.e. by mass immigration. Their excuse is an “ageing population and smaller family size”. Donegal has been hit badly in rural towns and villages because our young people have had to move to the cities or emigrate to distant shores. There’s not a GAA club in the country that hasn’t seen players having to move away from their community for work. I’d love to see our government bringing back our boys and girls from abroad, not just in times when they need them for referenda, but permanently.
I would like to quote from a letter by Dr John Doherty in the Irish Times on September 15th 2018 “In truth, the census shows while population growth was strong in the commuter belt counties of Meath, Kildare and Laois, the population fell over five years in Donegal (-1.5 per cent), Mayo (- 0.2 per cent) and Sligo (-0.1 per cent). The labour force in Donegal is declining, unemployment is 18 per cent and 16 per cent of young people have left the county in the last five years”.
Donegal is known as the forgotten county. We never did see the Celtic Tiger. Dublin are now the super power in all respects, not only in economic terms, but in GAA football where their dominance is set to continue in the years to come. The recent proposed rule changes are paying mere lip service to the deeper problems inherent in the GAA in these times. The Club Players Association hit the nail in the head. They are calling for a revolution at the grassroots. Just like what happened in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, things are about to change.
Keep the faith!