Self-de­struc­tion of the am­a­teur sta­tus

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Letters -

Sir — Joe Brolly and Colm O’Rourke ap­pear to be some­what in tan­dem with their de­bil­i­ta­tive ex­co­ri­a­tion of things GAA. While they of­fer con­trast­ing takes on the ‘state-of-play’ (Sport, Sun­day

In­de­pen­dent, Oc­to­ber 1), the sum of their points bodes bleak, very bleak.

If it’s not the in­creas­ingly acute ‘club-county’ co­nun­drum, it’s the on­go­ing cor­po­rate ag­gran­dis­e­ment of the as­so­ci­a­tion by any­thing but stealth. Both pun­dits of­fer ab­so­lute ac­cu­racy in their re­spec­tive com­men­taries, which col­late a tes­ta­ment of in­evitable self-de­struc­tion of the vol­un­tary and am­a­teur sta­tus of the games as we have known them.

Drain­ing the life out of the once-per­va­sive com­mu­nity dy­namism, the so-called ‘pow­er­sthat-be’ are al­low­ing the ball to be dropped, and kicked out of the park. Grad­u­ally the whole she­bang is be­ing sac­ri­ficed to ‘cor­po­ra­tised elitism’.

For sure, the Croke Park sta­dium has been a phe­nom­e­nal achieve­ment. But from the mo­ment it was con­ceived, ini­ti­ated and de­liv­ered, the whole com­mu­nity am­a­teur sta­tus of the games be­gan trans­mo­gri­fy­ing into a mega-cor­po­rate propo­si­tion, which had to be con­stantly cul­ti­vated to keep the top-end ech­e­lons fully lu­bri­cated, while the rank and file had to swal­low the dregs.

The re­cent pat­tern of pros­ti­tut­ing the tele­vi­sion rights to a ‘pay-for-view’ tem­plate, for a ruth­less world­wide Machi­avel­lian broad­cast out­fit, be­lies and be­trays the spirit, ethos and in­nate sen­si­bil­ity which were at the tra­di­tional beat­ing heart of the com­mu­nity. This de­ci­sion alone be­trays a sym­bolic de­risory dis­re­spect of the won­der­ful weave of com­mu­nity en­ergy which has hith­erto kept the whole show on the road.

Add to that, the dis­tort­ing over-dom­i­nance of county de­vel­op­ment squads from early teen-years on­wards, and the ridicu­lous (nay, scur­rilous) train­ing de­mands foisted on both these young play­ers and se­nior county squads is an im­plod­ing in­evitabil­ity. What with some teams train­ing on Christmas morn­ing, it has be­come a sure­bet harbinger for grad­ual self-de­struc­tion, which will play out over time... and short time, too. An au­then­tic am­a­teur com­mu­nity sport can­not pos­si­bly sur­vive such ex­po­nen­tial on­slaught.

This all cul­ti­vates a fun­da­men­tal ‘win-at-all-costs’ men­tal­ity, which is now de rigueur for any ‘self-re­spect­ing’ team. Such a phi­los­o­phy does lit­tle for com­mu­nity or so­ci­etal well-be­ing, with a ‘do-any­thing-you­can-get-away-with’ core theme of cheat­ing games­man­ship and off-the-ball shenani­gans.

We have seen plenty of this carry-on in big matches over the past few years. Peo­ple claim a ro­bust phys­i­cal game is al­ways go­ing to ‘over­flow’, but it has all gone be­yond that to al­most empty all sports­man­ship out of the game.

Per­haps, there may yet be a ‘Da­m­a­scene’ con­ver­sion to halt the de­cline, and prevent the games from go­ing over the cliff­face. Let’s hope so. We’ll pray to St Paul for same!

PJ Cos­grove, Lis­more, Co Water­ford

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