More managers could follow McGuinness's code breaking
GAELIC GAMES:Interestingly, a year that began with a debate on whether intercounty managers should be (officially) paid moves to its close with a vivid demonstration of the issue’s central dilemma.
Managers are capable of transformative achievement within counties, which greatly benefits the GAA’s profile and status in the community but there is no mechanism for materially recognising or securing this contribution.
Although rumours swirl around some individuals and their alleged fondness for below-the-counter remuneration, it’s difficult to think of any successful managers for whom financial reward is their primary motivation.
One of the official arguments previously used against payment for managers is it would discriminate against players, who remain amateur. I was never entirely sure whether this view was founded on genuine concern for the sacrifices made by players or simply on apprehension about a thin end of the wedge.
In any event the discussion document published last January by the association’s director general, Páraic Duffy, alludes to the pivotal role played by managers.
That allusion is purely observational. Proof of its truth lies in the importance counties place on appointing and keeping managers and how players react to what they see as inadequate appointments.
In an amateur context this is perfectly reasonable. If you’re volunteering a lot of time and intense commitment you’re entitled to feel that whoever’s in charge will harness your effort for an optimal outcome.
The GAA’s directives on the amateur ethos have occasionally wandered into the realm of the metaphysical. Before the area of commercial endorsements was declared – or prised – open there was the dispensation that allowed players to advertise products connected with their employment.
As a consequence there’s a fine body of advertisements from past decades, featuring farmers who also happened to be well-known intercounty players promoting menacing- sounding chemical treatments for farm animals.
Otherwise, the exemption was little exploited: no dentists preached the desirability of toothpaste brands nor barbers the benefits of hair tonic. Students were allowed do anything – or so we learned after a blind eye was turned to a youthful Jason Sherlock’s at the time edgy association with a department store.
I was at a summer school last year taking part in a platform discussion of professionalism in Irish sport. Having explained the tortuous evolution of the GAA’s amateur ethos, I was silenced by a harrumph from fellow guest George Hook, who observed that it wasn’t possible to lose one’s virginity incrementally.
But virginity is about the least useful comparison that can be made with amateurism in sport because the latter’s loss is always incremental, a series of concessions and re-definitions that wind up eroding more and more of the original ideal.