Malachy Clerkin: It’s okay not to take the so-called big issues in the GAA all that seriously

We get far too caught up in debating the minutiae of every little thing in the association

These are clotted times in the GAA. Contested times. Feels like every time you talk about anything, you gotta pick a side. No matter what it is, there’s no room for not knowing exactly where you stand. They shine a light in your eyes and shake you down for an answer. Is you is or is you ain’t?

As with all things, it pays to turn to The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams for guidance in these matters. We join our hero Ford Prefect, walking through the city late at night. A female voice called out from a doorway: “Do you want to have a good time?”

“As far as I can tell,” said Ford. “I’m having one. Thanks.”

“Are you rich?” said another.


This made Ford laugh. He turned and opened his arms in a wide gesture. “Do I look rich?” he said.

“Don’t know,” said the girl. “Maybe, maybe not. Maybe you’ll get rich. I have a very special service for rich people ...”

“Oh yes,” said Ford, intrigued but careful, “and what’s that?”

“I tell them it’s okay to be rich.”

That’s what we need in the GAA. A well-stocked, carefully-selected committee whose sole purpose is to tell you it’s okay. They needn’t restrict themselves to any particular subject matter or area of expertise. They just need to be soothing, reassuring and wise. It would be the greatest piece of GAA innovation since the Mikasa glove.

Take the split season. People are somehow still fighting about it, out there in the ever-going world. Not a word of a lie – they’re still at it. There were Japanese soldiers in the jungle who gave up on the second World War quicker than these lads will let go of the idea that it’s still somehow up for debate. This is prime territory for the It’s Okay Committee. (Motto: The IOC you can’t bribe).

They could step in and tell the lads that it’s okay to be in favour of the split season. Not only is it okay, but being okay with it is the only thing that will keep you sane. Because if you’re involved in the GAA and you’re not okay with the split season, you’re going to have a long and unhappy life railing against it. The split season is not going anywhere. Not now, not in the future.

There’s more. The real beauty of the It’s Okay Committee is that it can busy itself on the other side of that row as well. It can step in and tell the people that it’s okay to be in favour of the split season AND ALSO to feel a pang of regret that the old ways are gone. It’s okay to worry about the impact of ceding the airwaves to the other sports in August and September while at the same time going to see your club matches and coaching your under-12s. It doesn’t have to be either/or. It’s okay to be conflicted.

See? This has to be the way forward. Don’t mind your CCCs and your CCCCs and your Central Council and all the other Cs. This is the one that will earn its corn. It should have no other function than to put out a weekly bulletin, informing units of the things that it’s okay to feel and to think.

You may not know this, for instance, but it’s okay to be entirely ambivalent about championship structures. Seriously! It’s okay not to know whether teams in a league are ranked by scoring difference or head-to-head. Believe it or not, it’s okay to just be interested in the games for the games’ sake.

And not even all the games, come to that. This is going to shock you now but it’s actually okay to be involved in a team in your club and not be 100 per cent up to speed on how the other teams in the club are doing. It’s okay to have enough on your plate with the ‘97 under-8 camogie players fizzing around your ankles without having to be across the fortunes of the how the under-16 male footballers are doing too.

It is especially important for the IOC to remind those who are involved in large urban clubs of this. A while back, a crowd of young lads came down to our nursery on a Saturday morning to let the kids get their pictures taken with a cup they had won the previous week. One of the coaches – let’s just say it was the one writing this column – idly asked what competition they’d won. “You should know!” came the affronted reply. Needless to say, that young man would be up before the IOC so fast his feet wouldn’t touch the ground.

We get so caught up with GAA stuff that really isn’t that big a deal. The IOC would untangle those knots in a jiffy. Like, it’s okay to be in favour of the black card in hurling. It’s okay to think it’s an abomination. When all comes to all though, it’s a part of the game now and has been for a few years so maybe you should just wear it and go about your day. That’s what the IOC would tell you. And they’d be right.

We need to get this going. Bring it to Congress. Fix it for one of those late Friday-night votes when the delegates are itching to get to the bar. Gerrymander it through on a razor-thin majority when nobody’s looking. Stock it with long-haired surfer types from Donegal and Sligo, the sort of lads and lassies who don’t get too het up about anything, least of all the GAA. The kind of people who are deadly serious about not taking anything too seriously.

Douglas Adams would surely approve.