“The GAA hierarchy are like the pigs in Animal Farm. Repeating the mantras of volunteerism & community while doing the opposite.” Joe Brolly in the aftermath of the GAA’s deal with Sky Sports.
It was a measure of the changing nature of Gaelic Games that if a story of the GAA selling television rights to Sky appeared in the news ten years ago on April Fools’ Day it would have been instantly recognised as a trick for the day that’s in it. But not anymore, the fact the GAA had already made a deal with Setanta in previous years, the fact that Sky have become incredibly aggressive in the Irish market in recent times and of course the fact that the deal was cynically flighted to the press a week ago to try and restrict the fallout, all meant that once the official announcement came, we all knew that this was no prank. Sky are here and as is their wont they are here to stay.
As it comes to the end of one of its most difficult years in memory there was some good news at last for the FAI last week. A survey of Irish adults has shown that football was the most popular team sport in terms of participation in the country last year. 12% of people surveyed took part in the game over the past twelve months. Replicating recent trends, Football was played by more people than both Gaelic football and hurling put together who polled 6% and 3% respectively. Perhaps most surprisingly only 1 in 50 people had tried their hand at rugby during 2011. Swimming at (36%) and jogging (24%) remain the most popular forms of exercise for Irish people.
It has been reported (although never with hard figures) that more Gardaí are on the clock at the Dublin Derby between Shamrock Rovers and Bohemians in the Airtricity League than All-Ireland Football final day in September. Given that the number of spectators at the latter more often than not is twenty times that of the former it’s initially quite a staggering statistic, if it is in fact true. Given the nature of the occasions; one a fierce rivalry which often boils over, the other a celebratory occasion where whatever two teams are contesting there is a good-natured atmosphere it’s never really surprised anyone. Yet many recent high profile incidents have shown that the friendly atmosphere off the pitch at GAA games may be changing. There is a more sinister edge surrounding some matches at both club and inter-county level and perhaps more worryingly those in the corridors of power within the Association seem unconcerned by the subtle shift of events.
So the news cycle swings around and once again we are back on the topic of diving. Two audacious attempts of the art on Sunday in the Premier League by Gareth Bale and Luis Suarez have brought us here again. But why though does diving debate crop up more than any other issue? Why do the perpetrators receive such vitriol from the media and fans alike? Why is diving worse than tugging a shirt in penalty area, fouling a player while he’s through on goal or time wasting? All the same, all trying to gain an advantage over an opponent unfairly; all cheating. It appears that some perspective has been lost in the ever deafening anti-diving clamour.
The latest episode of our sports podcast Sporting Chancers. Hosted by Conor Hayes and featuring David Hughes, James McDermott and Colm Booth discussing the payment of managers in the GAA, a preview of the Heineken Cup and the Premiership’s relegation battle.
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‘Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.‘ Bill Shankly, 1981.
As medics attempted to resuscitate Bolton’s Fabrice Muamba out on the turf of White Hart Lane, fans of both sides were faced with one of those moments they genuinely dislike. It was one of those moments that forced them to admit that they are humans first, sports fans second and that Shankly’s assessment, witty as it is, simply doesn’t hold true. Today, as sportsmen and football fans of all allegiances continue to show their support for Muamba, Australian football fans of all colours are united in mourning the loss of one of the most colourful and inspirational characters to grace their sport, or indeed any sport. On the 20th of March 2012, Dublin born AFL legend Jim Stynes passed away.