I’m writing this on Monday evening and all over the papers we have articles about the state of the All-Ireland football and hurling championships and everywhere I look I can see pundits and experts all in agreement that there is something very worrying about the health of both of these sports.
In a very amusing piece in the Indo, Joe Brolly pokes fun at the Leinster Championship in particular, including an imaginary game between the Dubs and Carlow, whose goalie is only 16 and a double amputee. That, however, “can’t take away from the fact that he is a top class goalie.”
In all seriousness though, as much as we would like to pretend otherwise, it is a one-horse race – the Dubs will win it and not only that, will win all their matches by anything from 10 points upwards – and one would have to wonder how much harm the Dublin dominance is doing to players and teams in other counties. That is not the fault of the outrageously talented Dublin outfit and they can only beat whatever opposition comes their way, but nonetheless, a tournament that has so few real contenders has to be causing some concern to the GAA bigwigs and the dwindling attendances at some championship games will hit the association where it hurts the most: in the pocket.
The other three provincial championships may be a bit more competitive but when it all boils down there are only two or three (I don’t know who the third is but Dublin and Kerry are the two) who can win the Sam Maguire. And yet, is this championship any different to the English Premier League, Scottish Premier League, Spanish La Liga, German Bundesliga or Italian Serie A, where, year in year out, the champions come from a few mega-rich teams? The furore over Leicester City winning last year’s Premier League title shows how unlikely it is that a team outside the elite few can win.
Initially, I thought all this meant that I was wrong in saying that the dominance of the Dubs would harm the other counties. I thought about teams like Bournemouth and Swansea and other smaller teams who keep battling away against the odds, but then the penny, no, the pounds dropped…that their players are all highly-paid professionals who will get their huge wages, whether they win or lose. The lad from the county team which gets hammered by the top two or three will probably get loads of abuse and will still have to go into work or the dole office the week after. He is not entitled to ask after weeks and even months of total dedication, complete commitment and non-stop training if it was really worth it.
Having said all that, the championship still excites, although I have never agreed with doing away with the knockout system. Whatever chance we had of an occasional upset when there was no back door, the safety net that the back door has given the big teams now ensures that no minnow can get through to the biggest day of all: All-Ireland Final day.
Someone someday will come up with a practical solution but until then, Carlow, Leitrim, Wicklow, Waterford and another 26 or so counties, battle on knowing they won’t see Croke Park in September!
What we didn’t know during our round at Templemore Golf Club!
A few months ago, as myself and Carol were coming back from a couple of days away in the beautiful Glen of Aherlow in Co. Tipperary, we decided to pull into the car park of Templemore Golf Club, and to enquire about the possibility of playing a round of golf on the lovely 9-hole parkland course.
Now, normally on a Monday morning, and at a relatively early hour, it would not be too difficult to get a game, but, when we arrived, we were amazed to find that the car park was absolutely choc-a-bloc, and, for me to get parked at all, I had to wait for quite a while until some lad vacated a parking spot. Anyway, we got to play a round at the amazingly low price of €5 each for nine holes, and even though we didn’t exactly burn it up, we enjoyed it, and, in truth never gave it a minute’s thought since then.
Today, however, I now see on the Sunday Independent that the Golf Club has in fact been run by senior members of the Gardai, and has had hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ euro poured into it and is under major investigation regarding alleged dubious practices in the past by members of the force.
The reason the car park was full on that Monday morning was that the club was owned by the Gardai themselves, through a company called the Garda College Sportsfield company, and the cars parked there were not golfers’ cars at all, but cars belonging to trainee guards, and other members of the force. It seems there are a lot of questions to be answered about the financial dealings of the Golf Club, including why the agreed “strikingly modest” rent of €12,500 per annum has not been paid for eight years, and why the Sportsfield company got more than €300,000 in grants from that Garda Training fund during the years 2003 to 2014.
Now the situation is so serious that there is a possibility the Golf Club may have to close due to the alleged financial mismanagement and alleged irregularities, which would be a huge blow to the ordinary club members who have done no wrong, and, at a time when the Gardai are suffering from all kinds of negative publicity, they could surely have done without these revelations.
Obviously there are a lot of questions still to be answered, and no doubt in time all will be clear, but, in the meantime, I just hope that visitors like myself and Carol, will still be able to drive in, get parked, and play a round of golf – although if the finances are as bad as they seem, I imagine the price may have gone up a little bit!
'Till next week, Bye for now!