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"The GAA Will Be Destroyed" - Joe Brolly's Doomsday Prediction About The Future Of The Game

"The GAA Will Be Destroyed" - Joe Brolly's Doomsday Prediction About The Future Of The Game
Arthur James O'Dea
By Arthur James O'Dea
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'1993' is affixed to Joe Brolly's otherwise eponymous Twitter handle. As a corner-forward for Derry, this was the year a 24 year old Brolly became an All-Ireland champion for the first - and only - time.

Recalling the Oscar success of Good Will Hunting in 1998, Matt Damon recalled a sense of relief that this most coveted of awards had come when he was still only twenty-seven years old. Beyond the acknowledgement of his peers, Damon discovered that the highest of accolades would never realistically define or satisfy him. Although Brolly's determination to ensure that '1993' ought not be overlooked is certain, one senses that it too is a fond memory, a precursor providing foundation for subsequent analysis perhaps, but by no means the extent of how the man is to be measured now.

Speaking to Barry J Whyte of the Sunday Business Post, Brolly is presented as

A Gael. He played football because it was an expression of who he was. It was - and remains - an outgrowth of his belief in a community of Gaels.


Although Brolly's playing-career is behind him, his involvement with the GAA - beyond his most public role with the RTÉ - is unwavering. A coach of underage teams, Brolly is also a noted public-speaker at various GAA club functions across the country. Working in conjunction with his professional duties as a barrister, Brolly's activities within the GAA are consistently carried out pro bono. It is an element of his extra-curricular work that Brolly remains keen to remind us of.

Yet, undoubtedly aware of the scorn that usually awaits such shamefaced generosity, Brolly's intentions run deeper than self-promotion. Citing the ethos that underwrites his behaviour, Brolly

is dismayed at how Croke Park has drifted from the ideals he sees in action at the grassroots of the organisation... In his words, he wants to "return the GAA to being a community-based organisation with community-based ideals based on voluntary effort. Not asking what's in it for me, but what can I do? Which is where the real reward is.

Brolly's lament therefore is primarily with the increasing professionalism of 'the last great voluntary amateur organisation.' With greater and greater compromises regarding what constitutes an "acceptable" level of professionalism being granted, Brolly believes that drastic measures are needed:

But unless you create a radical strategy, what's going to happen slowly but surely is that capitalism will subsume you. It will just take you over. It's almost invisible, it just conquers you. And all of a sudden, one day, you wake up and say; What happened here?...Gaelic games will end up just another professional sport, entirely dysfunctional and sick...Community ties will break down, the GAA will be destroyed. This is a fact. It's inevitable. It's coming. Give it 25, 30 years, you'll see it.

Amid this destruction however, Brolly, frustratingly, offers no proposed solution to that which he perceives as a real threat to the GAA and the direction in which it is headed. Presumably, Brolly feels such action is only possible from the top down, from Croke Park to the grassroots; but we can be certain that he has no such faith in this process to redeem the GAA's core values as he sees them.


Picture credit: Sportsfile



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