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How Far Have GAA Big Wigs Diverged From The 'People's Game'?

How Far Have GAA Big Wigs Diverged From The 'People's Game'?
By Aaron Strain

Just what quantifies a 'people's game' in 2019?

You have your three or four buzz words that will always be bandied about when the conversation arises. Heritage. Success. Accessibility. Enjoyment. Pride. Passion. Respect.

Right enough, three or four was probably a bit of a limp pitch.

Back in March, Daire O'Brien caused a stir amongst the Twitterati when he dared suggest that rugby may have become Ireland's "people's game". To be fair, you can see where he was coming from. The national side's rise to world prominence since the turn of the millennium has encapsulated all but the very staunchest of single-sport fanatics.

Should Joe Schmidt's side make it all the way to this Autumn's World Cup Final, Saturday November 2nd could become the most pertinent day in Irish sporting history. World Champions? What about that?

By that stage, the GAA will be 135 years and one day old.

The undoubted cornerstone of community in the post-Famine history of this island, each of us will have our own personal debt to pay to the 'custodians' of our 'national game' - rendering O'Brien's comments in the RTE studio fantastical in the cold light of day.

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And whilst the club playing fields have provided a sound grounding for some of the country's greatest sportsmen and sportswomen -  the clubhouse refusing to be outdone by supplying us with some of the great drinkers of our time - the question of how far the big wigs at Croke Park have diverged from the idea of a 'people's game' is one that continues to rear it's ugly head.

Yesterday, Sinn Fein TD Martin Ferris arose in the Dáil, challenging Sports Minister, Brendan Griffin, to make a stand against already implemented price hikes for this year's Allianz League series, as well as inflated admission costs to Croke Park for the 2019 All-Ireland Hurling and Football Semi-Finals and Finals.

It begs the question - have the suits in Croke Park become the freeholders of the very games that were relaunched by Cusack, by Davin, by Davitt and Parnell, to provide the Irish people pastimes to call their own?

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Last August, with Tyrone and Monaghan already going through their pre-match obligations on-field ahead of the All-Ireland Football Semi Final, stewards refused entry to breast-feeding mother Caoimhe McCann at the entrance of the Hogan Stand.

Caoimhe, a knowledgeable, if at times fanatical, follower of the Red Hands stood open mouthed alongside husband Johnny, as the orange vests demanded the couple produce a ticket for four month old, Connla, who slept soundly against his mother's bosom.

The infant had enjoyed trips to Navan, Carlow, Enniskillen, Portlaoise and Ballybofey that summer as he became fully ingrained in that particular family's GAA tradition.

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Health and safety concerns were cited by those at the gate, instructing the couple that all patrons to the ground, no matter of age, must pay the admission and be assigned a seat of their own. Despite the fact a friendly by-stander offered the McCann's a ticket for the child free-of-charge to ensure their entry, the experience left a bitter taste in the mouth of the young mother.

That's just one incident in a litany of head-shaking scenarios that has resulted in a festering 'them and us' deadlock taking hold.

Should we mention the Liam Miller tribute debacle? Or the fact that Derry Hurlers have gone into "media lockdown" ahead of their Allianz 2B curtain raiser against Down in Pairc Esler on Saturday?

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Some of it beggars belief.

What's it going to take for them to stop? Plummeting attendances seem not to have humbled the John Horans and Tom Ryans of this world, as a generation of fans become more and more disgruntled with the quality of a product that fifteen years ago was unequaled in terms of its popularity in this part of the world.

Hurling and Gaelic football may well claim the crown, under their married GAA moniker, to be the 'national game' of Ireland, but the assertion that it remains the 'people's game' quite rightly raises an exasperated eyebrow in 2019.

The rising popularity of the oval ball considered, should the GAA forfeit the title of 'people's game' in the near future, they'll only have themselves to blame.

 

SEE ALSO: Monaghan Ladies In Constant Negotiations Over Travel Expenses

 

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