The Backdoor: the GAA’s amateur soul is long gone - it’s time to pay refs

Whisper it, but Cork's footballers look to be rediscovering their rebellious streak

Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan in action during his side’s defeat to Limerick. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

Waterford’s Maurice Shanahan in action during his side’s defeat to Limerick. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho

 

Association in denial

Let’s call it a symbolic make-up gesture - for the infamous ‘ghost goal’ at the Gaelic Grounds. Symbolism aside, Maurice Shanahan should’ve gone. Swinging the camán so recklessly is a red in any reasoned man’s book.

Pauric Mahony could arguably have made a better case - albeit still a very weak one - for receiving just a yellow card after the incident that saw him dismissed.

Who made the decision?

From afar, it appears the directive came from the umpires. And had the game ended as a tightly-contested affair, the men in white jackets would have been on the end of some foul-mouthed ire from one set of fans.

That’s the unfortunate reality in this sport: we expect the highest of standards in return for, well, the lowest standard of reward.

These guys have taken the day off, to travel across the country, to put on the cumbersome white coat, and to stand behind a goal in, as is often the case, stifling or biblical weather.

Perhaps the time has come to pay these people for their services; only then can we push them to the higher standards we expect of them.

For too long the GAA has hidden behind the mask of amateurism and volunteerism. By all means, it’s a well-intentioned idea - it’s also an archaic one.

The organisation in situ today isn’t the utopia based on the principles of its founding fathers. It may have been been built on the toil of volunteers, but it’s thrived on the money of corporate giants, welcomed into warm embrace of Croke Park.

That beloved soul was sold a long time ago and anyone found crowing about an “amateur ethos” is, to put it harshly, in denial. Mourn the slow painful death by all means, but move on. Id est quod id est.

If we’re unwilling to depart from the fabled amateur line, expect nothing more than amateur decisions.

By the numbers

15 - With victory over Clare on Saturday night, Kerry stretched their Munster football championship unbeaten record out to 15.

Rebels rising

Whisper it. For the words could come back to haunt us. But Cork may just have rediscovered their rebellious streak.

For all the world, this was Limerick’s moment. Cork have just been relegated to Division Three and having already upset a Division Two side, Tipperary, the Treaty men were ready to pounce.

Inside Cork however, there was a sense that something had changed, even in the space of two months. Strong performances in challenge games against Dublin and Galway had brought confidence - a trait that had slowly and steadily been seeping out of the county’s footballers for a half-decade.

Of course, one win isn’t a reason to prolong the Bank Holiday weekend but it does offer a sense of positivity.

Kerry have, for too long, sauntered through Munster, hardly noticing the red jersey. The Cork brigade entering Killarney have been inserted into the same bracket as rambunctious Americans - welcomed provided they bring their credit cards. For the health of Munster football, that needs to change.

Killian O’Hanlon and Nathan Walsh celebrate Cork’s win over Limerick. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho
Killian O’Hanlon and Nathan Walsh celebrate Cork’s win over Limerick. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

They haven’t instilled fear within Kerry just yet; they haven’t corrected all their shortcomings yet; at the same time, they’re going somewhere. Something to cling on to.

Though it brings shame on this column to utter such a profanity, the county may just have found their Corkness.

What they said

“The more pundits make noise, the more they get heard.” - Mayo veteran Andy Moran gives his thoughts on outspoken pundits

One show in town

Different year, same stubborn approach.

That infamous Eastenders comment from Aogán Ó Feargháil clearly still resonates with the relevant powers. It’s 2019 and the penny is nowhere near dropping - the provincial championships continue to grapple for attention with the might of the Champions League final. This year, Munster were bestowed with the honour.

Paltry attendances speak for themselves, but the GAA stands firm in its belief - it’s the only show in town. Whether they care to admit it or not, a large proportion of their clientele have an invested interest right across the sporting sphere. And at this time of the year, Champions League is king.

Last year’s Munster semi-final between Kerry and Clare drew a crowd of 16,729; on Saturday night 5,037 turned up at Cusack Park.

In Páirc Uí Rinn, only 3,128 watched Cork and Limerick.

Correlation is not causation and all that, but after so much correlation you begin to question the validity of the term. In this case, the GAA seems resolute on entering a battle with the ‘foreign’ game they’re never going to win.

Prior to the weekend’s games, Kerry’s Paul Geaney admitted avoiding a clash with the Champions League final “might make sense.” Be careful, Paul. Comments like that could make you a heretic.

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