With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the word “switch” has disappeared from the vocabulary to a certain extent.
this seems to be especially true in the case of the GAA. Indeed, it can be said that the virus has witnessed a kind of transformation in Gaelic sports, and a transformation that I think can become even more evident.
It was Galway football star Shane Walsh’s desire to express his desire to join the trendy Dublin club Kilmacud Crokes rather than stay in the books of his home club Kilkerrin-Clonberne that really hit me to the core.
His revelation came just a week after he was voted man of the match by several influential circles following his stunning performance against Kerry in the All-Ireland final at Crock Park.
However, if Walsh’s request is somewhat surprising, it is nonetheless understandable. Ever since the pandemic spread its tentacles to this island in early March 2020, it has sparked a whole new outlook on commuting.
Many thousands of people, accustomed to long daily routines from their homes to centers like Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Limerick and, yes, Galway, have suddenly discovered to themselves that this is a bad wind that does not blow for anything good.
Suddenly, the tempting prospect of working from home became a reality, life became more tolerable, and sports began to be given more attention.
As a result, many footballers, hurlers and female players from their two codes have become more closely connected to their local clubs and counties, reveling in the freedom that comes from not having to travel significant distances on a daily basis.
And vice versa also worked. Many university students and those who work in the cities have established their roots in the clubs of the same cities.
But you have to face the facts. There are many Dublin players who will never get a chance to play for Dublin, but who may well qualify for a county team whose parent may just be a native.
When Westmeath won their first Tailteann Cup a few weeks ago, Jack Smith was one of their standout players. His club? Skerry harps in north Dublin. And as Monaghan continues to search for a new manager, Jason Sherlock, who was number two behind the legendary Jim Gavin during Dublin’s dominance of the All-Ireland Series from 2014 to 2020, is proving to be the slim favorite.
And his potential number 2? None other than former Dublin player Kevin Nolan, who currently still plays for the modest Cremartin Club, located just a few hundred yards from the Monaghan Center of Excellence.
I have no doubt that we will see many more moves like this as players look to adjust to a new lifestyle.
Indeed, I think players who have returned to their home clubs, and those select few who have settled in the major cities and decided to play for the districts they are in, can greatly increase interest in the GAA.
With the demands put forward by the inter-regional managers and the fact that clubs are becoming more progressive in their operations, I believe that having players more available for training and related events could have a very beneficial effect on a club or county.
We have been attacked from all sides by players looking to find the right balance of lifestyle. If players can achieve this balance, then their chances of making significant progress will increase.
I have no doubt that many players are very enthusiastic about moving forward and up on a personal level, but at the moment they are hampered by excessive travel and possibly a long work day.
Striking the right balance is never easy, but I encourage players to be true to themselves first and then commit to club or county or both.
Ladies really show us their true worth
Last Sunday was a truly women’s day, no doubt.
England won the European Women’s Football Championship while Laois captured the All-Ireland Women’s Intermediate Football title and Meath retained her senior crown. Antrim and Fermanagh are left to fight for the Irish Junior Championship for the second time since last Sunday’s draw.
I may have had my doubts about aspects of the women’s game a few weeks ago, but I must admit that the commitment, skill and passion shown by all six teams at Croke Park last Sunday was first class.
Indeed, women’s sports were seen in bright light, with raucous fans helping to keep the buzz going throughout the event.
There is no doubt that women’s sport is getting stronger and stronger on this island, but isn’t women’s sport in general reaching for the stars right now?
Just look at Leona Maguire in golf and Rachel Blackmore in horse racing. And don’t forget to check out the Irish women’s rugby team, who aren’t standing outside the door flaunting their merchandise.
While I admired the skill and composure of the England team, I was also very impressed with the great effort and tenacity of the Laois team that beat Wexford.
They certainly put in a lot of effort and highlighted the rewards that character and courage can bring.
More recently, I have bemoaned the quality of the food at women’s matches, but I don’t think anyone could object to the menu at Croke Park last Sunday.
Meath’s stamina, energy and, yes, physical strength proved to be decisive in a game that brought Kerry to his knees.
What a pity that a player like Vicky Wall leaves King’s County to play in Australian football. Ireland’s loss is a win at heart.
And if Antrim and Fermanagh serve the same food in the replay next Saturday, I certainly won’t complain.
All three finals had drama that kept fans excited.
The task of the ladies was to get the men on board the paying customers and I think that has now been achieved. It would be great if the men went to matches outside of the final, but I feel it will happen on a larger scale.