GAA being bullied by World Cup Hype Show

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Lone Shark
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GAA being bullied by World Cup Hype Show

Post by Lone Shark » Mon Jun 12, 2006 12:23 pm

With the horror of Nowlan Park just behind us, it seems sadly appropriate to pen an article about missing opportunities. However the poor striking for scores of our county’s hurlers will be covered in great depth elsewhere on these pages, and in the spirit of not leaving the reader morose to the point of feeling like the subject of a Nick Cave song, we will move swiftly past that unpleasantness, except to say that Parnell Park can’t come quick enough.

However even though we are in the midst of a very busy time for both our hurlers and footballers, most people will still be aware that over in Germany right now a soccer event is ongoing. The lack of flags adorned with the names of pubs is a sure sign of the absence of Irish hordes looking to relive the adventures of some 18 years previous in the same land, but even allowing for the lack of an Irish dimension, the World Cup has become somewhat omnipresent in recent weeks.

No doubt the GAA philosophy in response to the World Cup is simple – let’s ride out the month of June, and come the business end of the summer the culmination of the football and hurling championships will win back the hearts and minds of the nation. This however is missing a trick, and displays a lack of strategic acumen in this instance on the part of the GAA brains trust.

Those of us used to the politics of spin and soundbite, where our politicians spend more money on make up for TV than they do on food for the year may not believe this, but once upon a time the point of debate was to win over the minds of the listener to a certain philosophy, to convince them of the rectitude of your point of view. Nowadays pedantry and petty point scoring have become the only debating tools ever deployed, to the point where the skill of debating to win as opposed to debating to look suave is very much passé. To find a good example of someone who debated to win, we have to go back a long way. This writer is going to suggest we borrow from the school of thought of Benjamin Disraeli, former English PM and widely remembered as one of the greatest debaters of his time. He maintained that to win a debate, it was pointless to pick on the weaker points of your opponents argument. Instead you should aim for the strongest – the pillars upon which he has built his case. If you can refute these, his whole point comes crumbling around him.

So it is with the GAA versus soccer in the quest for the hearts, minds and feet of the public. We opened up Croke Park on the basis that our games were strong enough to stand up for themselves – how about we let them? Right now the World Cup is going on, a celebration of soccer, and supposedly the biggest and most entertaining event for four years and nobody is pointing out that the emperor has no clothes. At the time of writing 8 games have taken place and only the clash of Argentina and the Ivory Coast has came close to the intensity of the most rudimentary club championship clash, yet we in the GAA continue to take our wonderful product and hide it. Two weeks ago, this writer was briefly home from England for the Kildare game, but had noted a couple of club league games that were scheduled for Saturday evening and went to take one in – only to find that it was seemingly cancelled. So, it turned out, was the second. Finally he went home, only to find another unadvertised game going on in the home club. These games may be of little interest, but let’s at least give people a chance all the same! Now this weekend our county’s hurlers will play Dublin in a clash that will be of huge significance to both counties – the winners will put themselves right back into the melting pot for an All Ireland quarter final place, while the losers will almost certainly have to face into a relegation decider. This game will most likely take place in Parnell Park, capable of holding roughly 13,500 – yet in all likelihood this game will be witnessed by less than 2,000 souls. Why is this happening? Why are all under 16’s not going to be admitted free, with free admission also for any adult accompanying two or more children? Why will there be no advertisements juxtaposing the raw courage and skill of Rory Hanniffy with the diving and posturing of Cristiano Ronaldo, who was at his most attention craving in Sunday night’s game with Angola? Our game is stronger than theirs. If we can put a qualifier game up against a World Cup match and win for entertainment value, what riposte can soccer offer? This is the World Cup, supposedly the best players in the globe. Looking at Sweden and Trinidad & Tobago, one fears for the game if that’s the case.

The other advantage soccer has is that it’s the world’s game - everyone can play. This is true, and this is the second line of attack the GAA should be and isn’t taking. For how long have we said, “Mol an óige agus tiocfaidh said” – and it’s a good point well made. But what about those for whom youth is a nice idea, and something thoroughly enjoyed about a decade ago? Just try to book a five a side soccer pitch for any weekday night anywhere in the midlands and you’ll see the appetite there is for participation in sport. People want to play games. Now go and look at those pitches on any given night – just because people want to play games doesn’t mean that they are able to do so with even the most basic level of ability – many aren’t but do so anyway. What does the GAA offer these people? Tullamore club, catering for our county town, fields two football teams – the weaker of which is middling intermediate, a level considerably beyond many potential players. Edenderry and Clara also operate strong junior A sides as their weakest team. For clubs that represent such a large proportion of Offaly’s population, there should be an onus on, and encouragement and financial support for clubs to field more teams, in order to get people playing.

The World cup is a great promotional tool for soccer in this country, and this county – however it would be of no use if while it’s on the population of Offaly were either out supporting teams, or playing themselves and having fun while doing so. The World Cup is massive. The GAA is small, and wonderful. We just need to show people it’s there, and trust them.

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