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Is the purpose of the GAA to host Ed Sheeran rather than our games?

When GAA Congress decided that it was a good idea to telescope the All Ireland championships at all grades into four months, this was approved by Congress in February 2021 with no opposition. Or at least no opposition that was sufficiently organised or bothered to formally oppose it.

This means that the under 20 championship finals will be held in mid-May, and that the senior football and hurling finals are on July 17 and 24th. Last weekend, there were 23 championship games played. There is almost a manic drive to just get it all out of the way, and no account taken of the clashes between county teams playing in hurling and football and at underage grades on the same days.

This is directly as a consequence of the “positive experience” of the Covid ban which the committee tasked with making recommendations did a volte face on following their original rejection of a “split season.” Even their statement approving the change described it as a consequence of the lockdown which had been “foisted” on the GAA. Which just proves that many people come to believe that things they were forced to do were actually for their own good.

The split season is based on the theory that if the inter county season is reduced to a minimum that this will allow more time for club games. There was even a Club Players Association which was established to campaign for this, and which has since “permanently closed” its Facebook page and disbanded.

Ironically the Gaelic Players Association whom some in the CPA had attacked as “elitist” stole their thunder by themselves backing the proposal, which will in fact conveniently allow in-demand inter county players to travel overseas during the putative club season to play, be employed, and even be paid to play in the highly competitive club championships in the United States.

As anyone who has played at club level will know, there are little or no club games in August anyway, and if this leads to county club competitions being run more efficiently than other years, well then, that will be a surprise.

It will expose the myth that the Junior Bs game had to be postponed because the county team was playing the week afterwards, even though no-one remotely connected to the Junior Bs was remotely connected to the county team.

What reducing the highlight of the GAA calendar to the shortest time possible – almost as though it were an inconvenience – will accomplish is to further reduce the visibility of the games and further reduce their place in the national consciousness. And yes, there is such a thing. For the time being.

As a Kilkenny neighbour of mine said to me, there was a time when the All-Ireland finals in September were the uncontested cultural centre piece of life for Irish people here and overseas. Now, in common with many other such anachronisms they are being gradually pushed out of the public realm and the GAA targeted to be turned into yet another totem for the mindless cult of Diversity.

That cultural antipathy to the GAA is being facilitated by an organisation at management level that appears to lack any vision of what the association is supposed to be, and which on a day to day basis seems more focused on short term commercial targets than putting any consideration into how the use of GAA grounds for concerts and for a future soccer competition will impact on the attractiveness of the GAA for players and supporters.

The soap opera that is the English Premier League is already the most-watched almost year-round televised sport in all parts of Ireland so to surrender even more media time to what is after all a rival makes absolutely no sense, even from a longer term financial perspective.

The short term thinking – and that is to put the kindest interpretation on it – behind all of this will be illustrated this weekend when the Cork hurlers will have to play a crucial against Clare in Thurles because Pairc Úi Caoimh is “unavailable.” As it will also be for the Munster football championship encounter between Cork and Kerry the following weekend.

The reason that it will not be available is because the stadium has been handed over to the organisers of two Ed Sheeran concerts.

Now, of course the rationale is that the concert revenue is required in order to pay off some of the costs of the renovation of the stadium – the same stadium that should be hosting what are arguably Cork’s most important games of the year.

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