The scramble for All-Ireland final tickets is nothing new. Likewise, the fund-raising efforts of county boards across the country is nothing new. Both are part and parcel of GAA life and both, to a degree, are a testament to what makes the GAA so intertwined with our national culture and identity.
There are very few things as exciting as walking down Jones' Road on All-Ireland final day and that's a feeling that not everyone can or will experience. The community spirit of the GAA can only go so far when you have 82,000 tickets to be divided among a potential crowd of somewhere north of 200,000 people (as a very rough estimate).
It's been like this for years. Your ability to source an All-Ireland final ticket was akin to play a high stakes game of international espionage. You knew someone who may have known someone on the inside. However, access to the source was strictly controlled and all manner of bribery and arm-twisting was accepted and expected.
By and large, that still happens. However, there's an altogether more foolproof way to get your hands on tickets these days - reach into your presumably deep pockets and contribute to the continued success of your county.
Over the past week or so, a promotional poster for a 'Preview Breakfast' that Dublin GAA are hosting in advance of the All-Ireland final has been causing quite a bit of debate. Hosted in the Ballsbridge Hotel on Thursday morning, €2,500 will get you a table of ten for breakfast with Ciaran Whelan, Paul Curran and David Brady.
A stellar line-up no doubt but €250 a head does seem quite steep. Except, there's a cherry on top of your breakfast. The €2500 table price will also allow you the privilege of purchasing a ticket bundle of 10 face value tickets for both the men's and Ladies' All-Ireland football finals.
— Ewan MacKenna (@EwanMacKenna) September 4, 2017
If you're being harsh (and/or a realist) that could be construed as Dublin essentially charging €350 for an All-Ireland final ticket. Not something the GAA would condone of course. The ticket price is set by the GAA and it's the job of the individual county boards to distribute the tickets (at face value) as they see fit.
As pointed out by Colm Keys in the Irish Independent today, it's not just Dublin who are using the scramble for tickets to boost county coffers. Mayo have offered 20 extra tickets to each club in the county provided they make a 'contribution' of €1,000 to the team training fund. According to Keys' report, that is understandably leaving some clubs feeling like they would have to pass on the cost of the contribution to the fans, on top of the face value price of the ticket.
Is there anything wrong with this or is it simply a case of basic economics? Supply, demand and the invisible hand determining a fair price that the market is prepared to pay. If you accept that, then you likely have to accept that it speaks to something deeper also. For want of a more nuanced phrase, has the GAA happily moved on from being a pillar of working class Ireland?
What's odd is that, as the debate has gone on about the Dublin breakfast over the past week, you'll find no shortage of fans defending such corporate excess. The argument so goes that money makes the world go round and Dublin's dominance of the Football Championship is, in no small part, down to their ability to provide a capital investment greater than that of their rivals. That capital investment comes from events such as this and it directly benefits the team on the pitch.
That may well be the case but if you're pricing fans out of the stadium, does it really matter how much money you're making for the good of the team? Perhaps the old ticket system of who you knew was far from perfect, but it's surely better than the new system of how deep your pockets are.
It may be an immovable feature of market economics but that doesn't mean we have to suck it up and be happy about it.