What a let down. A year in the works, the GAA’s Strategic Plan for the next five years addresses broad issues, re-hashed aspirations and stating the obvious.
Following the same pattern as its predecessor (Strategic Plan 2018-’21), which did not contain a single radical initiative, it is more about better implementing existing practices than proposing new ones.
Colleague Colm Keys summed it up perfectly on Tuesday, describing it as a case of “consolidation, reaffirming commitment to previous reports and policies, and broad support for many things rather than being specific in its measurements.”
Is this what the GAA needs in 2022? Apparently so, according to this report. If this is the feedback the Monitoring Committee gleaned from a consultation process involving more than 15,000 people, then the ostrich population in this country is much higher than previously thought.
Heads are in the sand when a report that has taken so long to produce lists recruiting more referees as one of its top priorities. This is simple housekeeping, not strategy.
For the games, the aim is to “make the Gaelic football and hurling as enjoyable as possible so the players keep playing and the spectators watch”. It’s hardly visionary.
One of the mechanisms to achieve this will be to “monitor and hurl the standard of Gaelic football to guide future interventions to improve the standards of the game”. Impressive! That is exciting.
What is the committee’s assessment of the state of affairs now? Are you happy with that? Do you see no need for action, especially in football, where the entertainment value has fallen sharply?
In Slingshot, one goal is to “grow the game exponentially, resulting from increased investment in Division 2 and 3 counties.” How many times have we heard that in the past?
It reminds me of my childhood in Galway in the 1960s when politicians peppered their election campaign with promises that a vote for him/her would mean work to dredging the Shannon to alleviate the flooding would start a few weeks later. 60 years later it still hasn’t happened.
If throwing money at slingshots in lower-tier counties had worked, Liam MacCarthy would have had a much wider choice of winter locations over the years. There’s a lot more to it, so where’s the fresh thinking?
The reality is that after all the campaigns and initiatives, there are only 63 adult hurling teams in 13 counties (Derry, Armagh, Donegal, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan, Monaghan, Louth, Longford, Sligo, Roscommon, Mayo, Leitrim) .
Money alone won’t solve that, as in many countries football has an overwhelming presence that turns off the lights whenever hurling shows any signs of real growth. That should have been addressed by the strategy group, rather than just offering “needs investing” as the main cure.
As for some other key areas that needed to be addressed, the report remains clear. For example, there are no innovative proposals on how to address population shifts.
Nor is there any proposal to change the outdated administrative model of the provincial councils in favor of a leaner system. That’s what the Towards 2034 committee suggested a few years ago, when it recommended an equal division of regions.
Instead, the GAA continues with four provincial councils, making for wildly different numbers. Leinster has a population of almost 2.75 million, five times that of Connacht, but both have the same governing mechanism.
The Towards 2034 report was never released, possibly because it also suggested paying players and managers an expense allowance rather than just out-of-pocket expenses. This is an area where pressure continues to mount, but the new report remains clear.
There are also no clear ways in which wealth could be distributed so that lower-tier districts could match the major powers in providing resources to teams at all levels.
And even after the financial chaos and embarrassment resulting from the redevelopment of the Páirc Uí Chaoímh, there is no comment on whether such large projects should go ahead. And this despite the fact that Casement Park is still on the agenda.
When it launched a year ago, this was billed as a major strategy review, so there was every hope that it would be radical. It’s far from that.
The Munster council has created its own chaos
What were Munster City Council thinking when they (a) set the Cork-Kerry Munster football semi-final for Páirc Uí Rinn and (b) later decided to move it to Killarney?
If they had announced Fitzgerald Stadium as the venue at the outset, advising that Páirc Uí Chaíomh was not available and they did not consider the small capacity Páirc Uí Rinn suitable for such a large game, Cork could not have had legitimate complaints.
Ultimately, it was their decision to put an Ed Sheeran concert ahead of what Páirc Uí Chaíomh was being rehabilitated for, a decision necessitated by massive debt resulting from a reorganization that saw costs spiraling out of control. By fixing the game for Páirc Uí Rinn and later changing it, the Münster council left themselves open to trouble. Didn’t they learn anything from the Newbridge or Nowhere circus in 2018?
Gone are the old days of players accepting whatever instructions they were given, and indeed the Cork team, showing a lot more determination than they did in their poor Division 2 campaign, have announced a boycott unless the original one Call for the venue.
Ultimately, the Munster council have no choice but to play the game in Cork as they can hardly allow their semi-final to be a piece of cake. It’s their own fault for getting into this embarrassing mess.
History disapproves of the League Finals losers
If past trends continue, defeated Allianz League finalists Mayo and Cork are not in good shape for the championship. Only once (Dublin 2017) in the last 20 years have the defeated football finalists won the title
All Ireland title. Contrary to last Sunday’s wipeout, Dublin lost by a point five years ago.
The NHL runner-up twice won the All-Ireland in 2007 and 2011 as Kilkenny recovered from spring setbacks to win the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
Nine NFL winners, including three times Kerry, went to All-Ireland glory later in the year, while eight NHL champions were equally successful.
Last weekend’s results have added significantly to the burdens facing Cork and Mayo. Cork wasn’t as flat as Mayo but still finished a distant second behind Waterford.
From afar, Mayo was a tiny speck in Kerry’s rearview mirror, and while they weren’t at full strength, it’s hard to see how those absent would have filled the gap.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/radical-ideas-sadly-lacking-in-gaas-new-five-year-plan-41524195.html Martin Breheny: “Unfortunately, there are no radical ideas in the GAA’s new five-year plan”