Monday 18 December 2017

It's sad if you can only spread the joy in September


Joe Canning is full value as a senior hurling ambassador
Joe Canning is full value as a senior hurling ambassador

Joe Canning was in fine talking form on Wednesday, giving full value for his role as a senior hurling ambassador for Bord Gáis Energy.

The most famous 21st-century hurler not to have won a Celtic Cross (yet!) touched on all manner of topics: Galway's league final rout of Tipp; the over-excitable response of some pundits; the critical reaction of others to their mini-homecoming in St Thomas; the perils of a Tullamore showdown with Dublin on May 28; and lots, lots more.

Cynics might counter that it's a shame we only tend to hear or read GAA stars in such loquacious mood when they're fulfilling a commercial brief ... the counter-argument is that no one pays Joe to sign countless autographs on the pitch, not just after Galway triumphs but defeats too.

Players of his stature don't just promote the game through their on-field brilliance ... they are accessible to youngsters far more than, say, their pampered soccer counterparts across the pond.

And yet, even this can leave them open to criticism.

In the wake of their league final cakewalk, Galway were castigated in some quarters for being a tad too enthusiastic in their celebrations. Bringing the cup to the club of their captain, David Burke, was frowned upon.

Canning was working that night; he wasn't in St Thomas'. But he wondered what was wrong if Galway held a brief meet-and-greet with young fans who wanted to see the cup - and their heroes.

On a deeper level, he viewed the criticism as evidence of a more "conservative" attitude, an Irish tendency to be "negative about everything", and lamented that there are "less characters" around today.

He has a point: time and again, GAA journalists are left bereft (of usable quotes ... and the will to live) after interviewing a player who has strip-searched every word for fear that he might say something vaguely controversial.

Now, you can blame the media's sensationalist tendencies for their reticence ... but control-freak managers are just as culpable.


Not every player is at ease in front of a dictaphone; we get that. Better for them to be left alone. But others with stories to tell feel compelled to pull the shutters, for fear of giving 'ammo' to their next opponent. More's the shame.

It's even more of a shame that some teams would feel compelled not to celebrate a national title, even if it's 'only the league' and it's 'only April'.

Only two counties can win a senior All-Ireland in any year. If only they are deemed eligible for public displays of revelry - and only then in September - you'd have to ask what's the point for the rest?

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