JOINT APPROACH Balla joint captains Ger Flanagan (left) and Barry Duffy are pictured with Mayo GAA Board chairman Liam Moffatt and the James Sweeney Memorial Cup after last season’s Mayo Intermediate Football Championship Final. Pic: Michael Donnelly
The way I see it
LAST September this writer stood proudly in the stand at MacHale Park, Castlebar and lifted the Sweeney Cup with my fellow joint-captain, Barry Duffy, after winning the County Intermediate Final with Balla.
A couple of hours earlier, Kilmaine’s Jarlath Mullin and David Hughes stood in the same spot and lifted the McDonnell Cup together after their County Junior final victory.
For both Balla and Kilmaine GAA clubs these were historic moments; we had won the Sweeney Cup for the first time ever; while Kilmaine were winning the Pete McDonnell Cup for first time since 1992 after a lot of near misses.
To be given the honour of representing your team-mates, your club, and your family in those rare moments is as wonderful as it is special.
I’m pretty confident of speaking on behalf of the other three aforementioned players — without having to seek their permission — in saying they would agree.
After last weekend’s virtual GAA Congress, moments like those are, however, no longer going to be a reality after a ridiculous motion was passed banning joint-captains from lifting GAA trophies together.
The motion was endorsed at Congress after the decision was already made by the Central Council of the GAA. And you know, fair enough if a proper argument was put forward by them outlining the rationale behind their move.
That would be deemed proper order, would it not?
Unfortunately, the reasoning behind where this proposal came from in the first place is uncertain.
The only official line on it that we’d seen at the time of going to print were these remarks from Tom Ryan, the GAA’s Ard Stiúrthóir: “[The] Sentiment [is to] tidy up things around the periphery of match day presentation, probably around the same theme as incursions into the field and there have been overtures in recent years about Maor Foirne, not in response to anything specific, but just a desire to tidy up presentation around matches.”
If this was the main reason for bringing the motion forward ‘to tidy up presentation’, then it does seem as pointless and irrelevant as t*ts on a bull.
This writer’s best guess is that the people making the decision simply didn’t like the growing emergence of joint-captains lifting the trophy.
We saw it in the Leinster Hurling Final and across the club championships this year; joint-captains are becoming more popular and moving away from traditional ‘lone ranger’.
Maybe that shift from traditional to contemporary didn’t sit well with the Central Council delegates?
Being honest, there isn’t exactly a queue out the door for that post in most County Boards.
But metathesiophobia, also known as the fear of change, can be daunting for people used to doing things their own way for a long time.
That line of thinking, therefore, does not favour something like joint-captains.
That way of thinking prefers a ‘supreme leader’ style figure in the dressing room, one who will bring the fight to the enemy when the chips are down and win the battle by himself.
It does sound romantic, but it’s not the reality.
The modern game is now less about individuals and more about a unit. Each and every player from 1-26 has a part to play, each with their own strengths to add to the party.
It’s often difficult to find one ‘alpha-leader’ in a tight bunch.
That’s why joint-captains are chosen.
But this decision, made in the sanctuary of a boardroom (an online one given the Covid-19 restrictions), smacks of an attempt to keep in line with the status quo.
It’s a decision that will rob so many players of experiencing something truly magical – lifting silverware in front of their own people. One that has created a reality where joint-captains could now potentially have to decide in advance about who gets the honour in the county, provincial or even All-Ireland Final.
Because managers aren’t going to stop picking joint-captains because of this travesty.
How is that in the best interests of the GAA?
To help us to try and understand where this came from, a clear and concise reason behind the rationale for the proposal has to be given by Central Council. My hope is that club delegates all across the country seek answers at the next meeting of their County Boards.
What do you think?