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5 Things That Every Dedicated Follower Of January GAA Could Tell You

5 Things That Every Dedicated Follower Of January GAA Could Tell You
By Balls Team

January is when the true fans let themselves be known. The rest of the year, as we know, they are camouflaged among the bandwagoners.

They trumpet their real fan credentials, for sure, but then so do many fans whose claims to that treasured title are much less compelling. So there's no way of knowing short of seeing them standing there at the side of the pitch in January. Sadly, few others see them.

Here are five details about January GAA which the hardcore will appreciate.

There were less people in the GPO than there were at Dublin's first O'Byrne Cup match

January is where the work is put in. It is on those freezing cold afternoons standing among sparse crowds that the reserves of sanctimony are built up for later in the year.

If you haven't gone to O'Byrne Cup games in January, then you can't in good conscience ring up Joe Duffy in mid-September to complain about some of the clueless morons who've managed to get their fair-weather mitts on All-Ireland tickets.

Speaking for myself, I have never met a Dublin fan outside Croke Park in September who wasn't at every match that year, including O'Byrne Cup matches in early January.

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It is therefore a source of some puzzlement that Dublin don't fill Croke Park for these January games. We haven't quite got to the bottom of what's going on here.

The McKenna Cup is where it's at

For whatever reason - northern nationalist intensity about Gaelic football? - the Dr. McKenna Cup is by far the most beloved of the provincial pre-season competitions. The Irish News, for instance, releases a supplement celebrating the arrival of the McKenna Cup every year. We're unreliably told that it's a special pullout and it numbers about 1,000 pages.

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Therefore, the McKenna Cup attracts the kind of 'patron' who we will tentatively describe as "normal".

During one of those tedious discussions about the provincial championships and their possible abolition, it was tentatively suggested in this office that the Ulster championship might perhaps be given a dignified funeral seeing as that the McKenna Cup was so vibrant. This would clear the way for a more radical proposals to revitalise the All-Ireland championship.

An Ulster colleague - who may or may not be from Cavan - pondered this awhile but rejected it. His alternative solution was to keep the McKenna Cup and the Ulster championship and just get rid of the All-Ireland championship. We await this proposal coming before Congress.

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The rule changes are a disaster

The honeymoon period accorded to rule changes in the GAA is about one second long, and typically doesn't last beyond the round of applause at Congress when the motion is carried.

After that, these meddling changes are greeted with hot fury, first on social media, and then ultimately on the terraces.

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It is the January competitions where the chief complaints against "the new rule" are premiered. Already, the word back from the January stalwarts is that 'The Mark' is "a disaster."

There are no medals handed out in January except for the ones that are

No self-respecting inter-county manager will be able to pass a dictaphone this month without reminding the world that "there are no medals handed out in January."

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Strictly speaking, this isn't true, as the O'Byrne Cup, the Walsh Cup and their equivalents in other provinces are awarded in the month of January.

But then the January cups aren't regarded as competitions as such. No one gets offended.

Be prepared to watch an U21 game

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Sadly, there are many managers who treat the pre-season competitions in a manner akin to the way Alex Ferguson used to treat the Coca Cola/Worthington/Rumbelows/EFL Cup.

They tell their established players to rest up and pass the baton over to a bunch of callow youngsters. If they sink or swim it doesn't matter much.

Last Thursday, the world learned that Dublin had been beaten by UCD in the O'Byrne Cup, the Dubs first loss since losing to Longford in last year's competition. While the Dubs had a semi-strong team out for the loss in Pearse Park last year, on Thursday, the All-Ireland winning core were gone to Jamaica along with their manager.

Paul Clarke stood in on the line for the Dubs and they were beaten by a Jack McCaffrey inspired UCD.

Even in the McKenna Cup, the most cherished of all the January tournaments, Rory Gallagher opted only to play U21 players this year. He didn't even show up on the touchline himself, leaving that U21 boss Declan Bonner.

 

Read more: "Grow A Pair"- David Herity Gives Very Interesting Insight Into Brian Cody's Management Style

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