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American dream can be club nightmare


ON THE BALL Enda Hession from Garrymore is pictured in action for McBrides against Parnells in the Chicago club football championship recently. Pic: Chicago GAA Facebook

The way I see it
Ger Flanagan

GAA people on these shores have been blessed this summer with quite a bit of coverage of the various club championships in America.
In particular, the Chicago club football championship attracted astounding interest given the star-studded teams on show.
Half the Mayo senior team seemed to be representing McBrides GAA this summer, while the likes of Rian O’Neill, Conor Meyler and Michael McKernan all wore the Parnells jersey.
Social media gave it wall-to-wall coverage, with potential for huge reach on Monday mornings with mini clips from the games of the stars strutting their stuff under the USA sun.
It’s a click-bait dream and we’ve all seen the litany of ‘articles’ being produced at break-neck speed around some score or nuggets from the commentary box.
The novelty of the tournament really caught the imagination of its audience back home.
It’s an All Star tournament; it’s all lights, cameras, dollars and Bud Lites.
For the players, it’s an opportunity to get away for the summer and see the world, earn some cash along the way, and experience the American dream.
But that American dream is becoming a bit of a nightmare for the club game in Ireland.
To say those words and address the elephant in the room seems to be venturing into dangerous territory, however. Because to highlight the drawbacks risks getting accused of trying to curb a young lad’s freedom.
But highlighting an issue isn’t criticising and the longer people bury their heads in the sand the worse it’s going to get.
For a long time now inter-county players have been heading off to the USA to play football when their inter-county season it’s over, it’s nothing new.
But the introduction of the split-season has allowed the vast majority to avail of this new experience and whether you like to admit it or not, it could be a big problem for the club game in the future.
When the phone-call arrives from the States and the dollar bills get floated in front of players’ eyes, most of the time it’s a short conversation.
For the clubs back home, eaten bread is soon forgotten and they just simply cannot compete with that.
This columnist have nothing wrong with lads going to America for a summer and playing some football, experiencing that culture and meeting new people. I did it myself and can say it’s one of the best life experiences anyone can have.
The life is good and the craic is better. The football is of a decent standard but is a world apart from club championship pace here in Mayo.
Look at Paul Towey from Charlestown shooting 1-17 in a single game in Chicago!
Simply insane, but that is almost unheard of back here and certainly doesn’t mean he could transfer that sort of form to inter-county level.
However, it’s the contradictory nature of the whole issue that gets me; because anyone who speaks out against players heading to the US is vilified, as former CPA head Micheal Briody recently found out.
Briody put his head above the parapet and called on the GAA to crack down on the brain drain of talent to America.
The accusations and replies being thrown back at him were all from the same angle: ‘Sure what’s wrong with lads heading off to America and earning a few pound for themselves’; ‘it’s the least they deserve after all the commitment they’ve shown’; ‘fair play to them’ etc, etc.
It’s the populist view. Most will spew it out without really thinking about it, maybe afraid to take a step back and actually consider that there is an issue here.
To instantly dismiss the fact that so many players are heading away while the club season has started in Ireland shows a complete lack of awareness for problems down the road.
What’s hilarious is that these same people spit their dinner up at the thought of club managers/coaches earning a few pound for training teams in Ireland, or completely self-combust around the rumours of inter-county managers’ expenses.
It doesn’t long then before we hear all about how the game is built on an amateur ethos and the absolute disgust at GAA capitalism does the rounds.
The reality is if that it continues unchecked then the club game is going to slip further and further down the ladder in inter-county players’ eyes. Bidding wars are going to start across in the big American cities and everyone will want a share of the pie.
Some of the rumoured amounts some players received this year are absolutely mouth-watering and it’s completely understandable as to why someone would want to grab it with their two hands.
But it’s effectively going to mean clubs will have even less access to their county players, lads they’ve invested so much into throughout the years. Not least the impact it’s going to have on clubs in the USA, who appear to be putting a big push on home-grown players.
New York GAA only allow three overseas players per year to line out with their clubs to help promote the American-born lads, and maybe that’s the way to go. But that isn’t an umbrella ruling in the USA and its regulations make it difficult to enforce.
To clarify, I’m not calling for US Customs in Dublin and Shannon Airport to be tipped off around June/July time every year. For the record, I’m not one of those MAGA hat-wearing gang either!
To be honest, a certain part of me is envious that I don’t seem to get calls with big money deals to go to the States for the summer anymore!
But I do know that this is a conversation that needs to take place sooner rather than later.



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