Connacht fail to keep flag flying
NOSTALGIA will not resuscitate the interprovincials . . . or at least Connacht’s interest in it, if Sunday’s fiasco is any indication.
Rescued from a couple of years in oblivion the former Railway Cup series is no longer the attraction that once lured up to 50,000 people to Croke Park for the final on St Patrick’s Day.
A couple of hundred local people stirred out to Markievicz Park for Connacht’s semi-final tussle with Ulster and they got little to cheer about from a match dominated from the beginning by the northerners.
In fact the whole thing was as interesting as a flat pint.
Connacht have not won the title for 43 years, and their performance had all the appearance of a side lacking ambition or any sort of enthusiasm.
Five Mayo players were honoured with selection, but Donal Vaughan and Seamus O’Shea cried off and were replaced by Johnny Davey of Sligo and David Keenan of Roscommon.
Mayo’s Kevin McLoughlin, Alan Dillon and Conor Mortimer were in the forward line together with Donie Shine of Roscommon, Nicky Joyce of Galway and Sligo’s Adrian Marren, and they made little headway against a committed Ulster side that have dominated this competition over the decades.
There was nothing half-hearted about their purpose. They were up for it and swept into the game as if they had been playing together for years. Even Tyrone’s Owen Mulligan showed an eagerness for the game that belied his years, spraying passes in every direction.
From the start full-back Neil McGee, centre-back Peter Harte and Darren Hughes roamed hungrily upfield searching for scores, and it was clear that as a contest the game would have a short life.
In fact it lasted sixteen minutes. At that stage Peter Harte and Mark Poland had grabbed two goals and Ulster led eight points. By half-time the margin was ten points, and no flicker of fight-back evident.
At the other end Mortimer was Connacht’s best forward, but no surge of support from the centre was available to him. For effort, Alan Dillon was best of the rest.
They brought on Ballindine’s Michael Conroy late in the second half, but the main source of supply was cut off at midfield under the control of Dan Gordon and Rory Kavanagh. Most of Connacht’s thirteen points came from frees by Mortimer.
In defence, Lee Keegan, listed among the subs, might have been a better choice at half-back, but clearly there is no appetite for the game in Connacht.
Whether players consider it an honour to be selected for the province any more was not reflected in this performance. Ulster show so much pride in the competition that it would come as no surprise if the province were behind its revival.
But since nothing will restore its former Railway Cup lustre is there any sense in continuing to breathe new life into this moribund series?
Payment issue is here to stay
IT would be naive to expect an imminent solution to the raging controversy about GAA managers’ expenses.
The country is split for and against regulated payment other than expenses allowed under current rule. Some counties, many of whom break the rule in any case, are saying nothing.
What’s at stake is the residual fear by traditionalists that illegal payment will further erode the amateur ethos of the association, as opposed to the equally valid view that managers deserve no less than what doctors and physios and psychologists who tend teams receive.
GAA President Christy Cooney didn’t endear himself to managers when he described illegal payments as ‘a cancer running through our organisation.’
Some former managers have called foul on Cooney’s diagnosis. “The motivation of nearly all managers is the desire to win and be successful, not to make money,” said John O’Mahony.
“Why not legitimise payment to managers and bring transparency to it? I would be in favour of that. Croke Park staff has grown significantly and there’s good reason for that so I don’t understand why inter-county managers are expected to exist on mileage although it’s nearly a full-time job,” he said.
Former Offaly and Galway hurling manager, John McIntyre was more trenchant in his criticism of the GAA president.
“I don’t take offence easily, but I felt Cooney’s choice of words was doing a profound disservice to and tainting the image of the hundreds of managers, between club and county level, who are completely dedicated to driving their teams forward and who put in countless hours of labour endeavouring to do so.
“It was only a brief encounter, but I remember saying to Cooney that I resented being described as a cancer on the GAA and quickly told him about 22 years of total commitment to my club Lorrha which involved such diverse roles as player/manager, club secretary, fund-riaser, team manager and captain. That round trip from Galway of approximately 100 miles had cost me a small fortune, but I loved it and would not have had it any other way.”
McIntyre said he was appointed Offaly hurling manager in 1996 and readily agreed to the €60 a training session, he was offered. There was no compensation for travelling to club matches in the county, which he attended regularly. He was over 80 miles from the training base in Tullamore, and it did not bother him in the slightest that his total expenses were not covered.
“There are so many red herrings being floated about this issue, but the reality is that I hear little or no protest at grassroots level about looking after team managers in a reasonable manner.”
Former Dublin and Cavan manager Tommy Carr also took issue with Christy Cooney describing it as a rash statement. Managers should be paid because they had brought a new dynamic dimension to the game, he said. The payment should be commensurate with his status.
Carr said the manager was the person in complete charge of the team. Yet, “we are paying doctors, physios, psychologists, dieticians etc in preparing teams. Why isolate the manager who brings his own expertise to the game.”
Following the outburst by the president, a discussion document listing three options for dealing with the problem was issued from Croke Park.
Option one: Maintain the status quo; Option two: Implement fully the rules on amateur status by establishing a registration and audit body to monitor managerial appointments; Option three: Permit regulated payment for senior intercounty managers subject to the scrutiny of a registration and audit body.
At least twelve counties, including Mayo, failed to answer a questionnaire on the matter undertaken by a national newspaper. Of those that did, nine, including Kerry, Tipperary, Galway, Donegal, Tyrone and Cavan were opposed to payment other than the expenses allowed under current rule.
Some equivocated with responses to the effect that payment to managers should be ‘looked at’. Others were absolute in their denial that their managers were paid above the normal rate. “ I can assure you our county never made illegal payments to managers,” was the general gist..
There is no hard evidence to suggest that illegal payments are being made, but there is no doubt that some county managers and many club managers are receiving more than ordinary expenses . . . as a small hurling club in the midlands found when they went looking for a manager.
No rule can cater for this practice, however well drafted . . .so long as there are counties willing to shell out big money, and managers only too willing to accept illegal payments. Lack of transparency will not deter them. That’s the inevitable fact facing the powers-that-be.
Just a thought …
NO team could fail to be inspired by the example set by Crossmaglen in defeating Dr Crokes. The manner in which they overcame hail, snow, high winds and the loss of a man showed courage beyond the norm.