Tuesday 12 December 2017

Who's the boss of the G.A.A. after change of dates?

Alan Aherne - On The Line

Alan Aherne
Alan Aherne

I awoke last Thursday all set to enjoy some free time away from work, blissfully unaware that my contented state was about to be altered by the most powerful man in the G.A.A.

That is an admittedly unofficial title that I have conferred on Peter McKenna, the Commercial and Stadium Director of Croke Park, based on strong personal opinion.

There was perfect symmetry as I got into the car and turned on the radio to hear Pat Kenny welcoming the man in question on to his morning show on 'Newstalk'.

Peter was the bearer of very good news to the masses, namely that Bruce Springsteen is all set to visit Croker at the end of May. Friday the 27th was the first date mentioned, and my immediate thought was that the city will be an even busier spot than usual that night given that Ireland's final friendly before Euro 2016 against the Netherlands is also down for decision in the Aviva Stadium.

Then came the bombshell, with the news that an extra concert was also agreed with the promoters. And, because 'The Boss' needs sufficient recovery time between performances, it has been pencilled in for Sunday the 29th rather than the Saturday.

The next part of the conversation really raised my indignation. Pat asked Peter if there would be any disruption to the Croke Park schedule and his guest replied in the negative, explaining that there would be a double-header of games there on the 21st, with work on setting up the stage and other necessities to fill the following Sunday to Thursday.

There was no mention of the fact that, yes, in fact two games had been fixed for the 29th but had to be moved back eight days; well, I didn't hear it at that stage anyway, so apologies to Peter if he did acknowledge that later in the interview.

I switched off at that point because I wanted to check the championship dates after his initial reply, fearful that I had got it wrong and our double bill was never slated for the 29th in the first place.

However, there it was on the Leinster Council's website last Thursday, immediately after this news emanating from the airwaves: they still had our fixtures versus Kildare and Dublin down for decision respectively at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. on the 29th.

Later in the day I was saddened, though not surprised, to hear Co. Chairman Diarmuid Devereux declaring that Wexford had no opposition to the move. Unfortunately, that's the reality of the situation we find ourselves in, having been put through the financial wringer prior to his appointment.

I have no doubt that some inducement will be offered our County Board for the 'inconvenience' caused by the move, and that guarantees that we follow the Croke Park line. Kildare are in an even worse financial situation than we are at this stage, so I reckon there wasn't much of an issue with the Lilywhites either. In essence, it's a case of 'like it or lump it', as neither county has any bargaining power left given their desperate need for cold, hard cash.

I don't blame our Chairman for his stance either, much as it saddens me. In fact, I credit him with working wonders for turning things around during his tenure which will conclude at the end of this year. As a county we are just one ill-judged appointment away from a possible return to even darker days, so the identity of Devereux's successor will be of critical importance.

The one thing I would agree with Peter McKenna on is that Springsteen is among the greatest performing artists in the world. And there's a certain irony in that the American rocker's nickname is 'The Boss', because I would pose the question: who's the boss of the G.A.A. right now?

Like I wrote above, it's Peter in my view, the man mainly responsible for getting the money in at the top. That sad reality is about as far removed from the original ethos and ideals of the association as we can possibly get.

Of course, money has always played an enormous role, and I would be naive to believe otherwise. It just seems to me that we are close to saturation point in terms of finance being the be all and end all. We'll be told naturally enough that the money generated will filter back down to the clubs, but I wonder what Michael Cusack and the lads would think of it all 132 years later?

Wexford People

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