Shopping local can make real difference
Weird Wide World of Sport
As any Chamber of Commerce worth it's salt will tell you, if you shop local it's a win-win situation for all.
If you part with your hard-earned cash in home-grown businesses it boosts the local economy, creating jobs in the community and keeping the cycle of life flitting in perfect harmony.
It's wonderful to witness Wexford supporters head up the N11 in their droves to cheer on their purple and gold-clad heroes, but what would be even more pleasing would be to see even a fraction of those that made the pilgrimage to Croke Park attending the odd club game.
You'll see fans salivating over the virtues of Lee Chin, Conor McDonald or Matthew O'Hanlon, yet they won't travel five minutes down the road and pay a tenner to watch them lining out for Faythe Harriers, Naomh Eanna or St. James'.
The players don't suddenly metamorphosize into ten feet tall superheroes the moment they put on the county colours you know.
So the next time there's a clamour for tickets for a big game in Semple Stadium or Croke Park, remember that you'll also get plenty of opportunities to see the county's most accomplished hurlers in action closer to home.
The colour and excitement may not quite be the same as a big match day in headquarters, but the intensity, rivalry and fist-clenching will to win remains.
While I'm on the subject of tickets you'll often hear the predictable 'grab all association' accusations when the powers that be in the G.A.A. ask for thirty, forty or even fifty quid for attending a match.
Of course, those kind of figures are nothing to be sneezed at, but when you compare it to the extortionate amount that's being charged for meaningless pre-season soccer friendlies in the Aviva Stadium it's a real bargain.
If you're seeking evidence of crazy prices, look no further than the €70 that's being asked for the pleasure of seeing Manchester United reserves versus Sampdoria reserves or the similar lashings of silver being commanded to watch an almost unrecognisable Liverpool team playing Athletic Bilbao. Fools and their money and all that. The mind boggles!
That daylight robbery is a complete contrast to both soccer and the G.A.A. at grassroots level, where countless wonderful volunteers ensure that our kids receive quality coaching throughout the year for minimal financial outlay.
Of course, Irish fans of the Premier League franchises will travel in their thousands to see their club of choice play in a game where meaty challenges will be as rare as Jose Mourinho admitting a mistake, when they wouldn't cross the road to watch a League of Ireland game.
Just look at the situation that Bray Wanderers find themselves in at present. Third in the league and playing some beautiful and exciting football, yet they can't get people through the turnstiles at the Carlisle Grounds.
The Wicklow club are in grave danger of going to the wall like plenty before them and many more in the future if current trends continue. Undoubtedly the problems in the club and the league in general run far deeper than the not so small matter of bums on seats, but as some wise sage somewhere once said, 'every little helps'.
Most will point to the quality of the football as their principle reason for not attending matches on our own shores, but that's a feeble enough argument given that what's on offer is certainly on a par with the lower leagues across the water, and you're either a football fan or you're not.
If you enjoy the beautiful game you should take pleasure from watching it at all levels, from eager schoolboys with eyes only for the ball all the way up to the upper echelons of the sport.
Of course, those at the very top of the tree do it better, that's why they're where they are, but it's more Hollywood and untouchable and far less tribal than what you can find in your local League of Ireland ground on a Friday or Saturday evening.
Not everyone has the time, money or energy to spend hours every weekend sitting in a stand or standing on a sideline, but even if you can only manage to do it once in a while it could make a world of difference.