herald

Wednesday 19 December 2018

It's not too late for GAA to do the right thing

Liam Miller. Pic: Sportsfile
Liam Miller. Pic: Sportsfile

From Newbridge or Nowhere to the Farce in the Páirc ... the past month has been a drawn-out disaster for the big chiefs of the GAA.

But maybe, just maybe - out of the latest unholy mess over the unavailability of Páirc Uí Chaoimh for the Liam Miller Tribute Match - some good will arise eventually.

As the GAA go off to "consider the proposal discussed" at Tuesday's meeting with the charity match organisers, the hope whatever about presumption is that a way will be found through the imbroglio that is Rule 5 of the Official Guide.

Even if the path is cleared for Central Council to give the green light, the damage from a PR perspective won't be eradicated overnight.

The GAA will still be seen, by its detractors, as having caved in grudgingly. Damien Duff won't change in his view of the association as "f***ing dinosaurs".

Just as the damage was only partially repaired by Croke Park's U-turn over the venue for the Kildare/Mayo SFC qualifier. Another own goal.

But here's the thing: there wouldn't be such a poor outside perception of the GAA if the right calls were made at the right time. That is not merely a failure of PR; it's a far more fundamental flaw.

Moreover, there wouldn't be such a mess to clean up this week if some clearly outdated rules (specifically the one governing control of GAA property) were brought into the 21st century ... and if the decision-making process was modernised to deal with issues in real time.

Instead, the initial attitude to this latest venue controversy could be summarised thus: "Sorry, we appreciate it's a good cause but we can't do anything to help you here, rules are rules after all, come back to us after next year's Congress ... or maybe 2020!"

Problem

The real problem with both of these sagas lies in not appreciating, quickly enough, that there's a right decision to make and a wrong one. It's okay for Ed Sheeran but not this? The optics are all wrong.

I was in St Conleth's Park for last Sunday's Kildare/GalwaySuper 8 tie. Not for the first or last time, I cursed the cramped dimensions of the press box ... similar complaints about the venue, as a whole, remain entirely valid. But that didn't make it right for the CCCC to fix Kildare/Mayo for Croke Park - just hours after the draw had bequeathed home advantage to the Lilies.

Then, time was the enemy but it seemed as if the GAA rushed into a decision without appreciating exactly what they were saying to Kildare and, by extension, several other counties whose home grounds belong more to the last century.

On this occasion, the case for playing a soccer match in the pristine home of Cork GAA is even more compelling. This is not a competitor encroaching on your turf. It's an attempt to achieve something positive out of a very sad story.

But instead of the GAA displaying a generosity of spirit shared by almost all of its members, we get a statement that includes phrases such as "prohibited in rule" and "has sought legal advice" (pertaining to the soundness of said prohibition in the context of substantial state funding for 'the Páirc'). This sent out all the wrong messages.

As it stands, we reckon the wording of Rule 5.1 is sufficiently ambiguous to allow Central Council, instead of Congress, to make the only right call.

And maybe then the rule itself can be revisited before the next own goal comes.

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