I am reminded of a quote an old acquaintance once made in relation to GAA committees. He observed that “too much democracy can be a bad thing”.
The GAA is a very democratic organisation and well structured from grassroots up. Ordinary club members can have an input into big decisions by moving a motion at their club AGM which can in theory be put to a vote at annual congress. It’s seldom a congress goes by without some relatively radical shake-up of rules and structures. But, a bit like Fr Ted trying to fix the dent in his car, too much tinkering creates a mess.
The split season is one such mess and it has created a divisive debate which is playing out now since the championship season ended. Back in 2003, my club St Brigids won the Dublin senior football championship and the Leinster championship for the first time.
It remains one of my all-time favourite sporting memories and is quite difficult to explain to people who are not affiliated to a GAA club. It brought the parish together in a way that I have not experienced since then.
The “GAA club” is painted in melodramatic terms and it probably prompts collective eye rolls when people start going on about the magic and uniqueness of the GAA club. But having experienced an autumn and winter following that successful team around Dublin and Leinster, I can identify with it.
And the split season has been all about supporting the clubs, which have argued for years and years that they are the forgotten children of the association.
The reason why the inter-county championships were squeezed into a few weeks at the beginning of summer was to give the clubs a good run at it in good weather. But how many championships were up and running by the beginning of August? Furthermore, why did the club championships not begin as soon as county sides were knocked out of the inter-county championships?
Even in the old days, there was still nothing to stop all but four counties in each code from getting their championships under way in July since their county teams had been knocked out of the championship.
I, like many more GAA fans, will probably not see a game live until the 2023 national leagues begin in February. I will support my club and that might be for only one or two outings depending on how they get on.
But I definitely have no interest in watching matches where my club is not involved.
What about the fans
That is just the way it is, and I think it is the case for the vast majority of other GAA fans around the country. Great for the players but what about the fans?
At some stage the GAA will realise that they have shot themselves in the foot with the split season.
The “first Sunday in September” and the “third Sunday in September” was a precious colloquialism for the All-Ireland finals, two sacrosanct dates to celebrate our national sports and give them the special attention they deserve. How changing that is seen as progress is lost on this writer.
It’s sad too that this debate is also creating an “us” and “them” situation within the GAA family, those who support the split season and the rest of us who do not have any meaningful competition or games to look forward to until next spring.
Surely there are other ways of tackling the club player challenges which doesn’t involve throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Last weekend I finally got round to cleaning up the decking area just in time for the summer, something I thought about doing in April. Procrastination is my middle name.