It is that time of the year again when as the weekend approaches, thoughts are turning towards club GAA action here in Clare.
The football leagues and U-21 hurling championships got underway last weekend and while over the Bank Holiday weekend, the hurling leagues will throw in. With the club month of April on the horizon, parishes will flock to the local pitch to take in the action, and it has to be noted that there were good attendances at the games played last weekend. The flip-side of that of course is that we are in storm season, and with Gareth hitting this week, who knows how many more of his siblings will visit us between now and what will hopefully be a scorcher of a summer.
That means while the latter part of the week brings the excitement of the match at the weekend, it also brings the question as to whether the match will go ahead or not, or how the field will take the rain. Last Saturday night saw rainfall of near biblical proportions while Sunday wasn’t much better. All games went ahead as planned, even if the wind that was blowing was almost like a third team on the field at times. You would just wonder how sustainable it is for fields to continually take abuse like they endured at the weekend, with several of them cutting up badly as games wore on. Clubs spend a huge amount of their income on maintaining their fields, and are rightly possessive of them in terms of making sure that being too flexible with their availability doesn’t end up costing them in the long term. Going forward, if this type of weather continues at this time of year, and with an already congested fixtures calendar, surely an alternative has to be looked at.
This might seem an obvious one, but the use of astro-turf facilities for club games in particular could prove to be a workable solution. If you think about it, most inter-county panels in Clare are using UL as their training base for most of the winter, where they are using the 4G surface so it is not as if it would be a new experience for a good number of players. It is not something that could happen overnight either, as significant investment would be needed in order to have those kinds of facilities in place in one part of the county, let alone dotted around the place. Clare soccer would probably not have its fixture schedule complete each year without the use of the astro facilities in Lees Road, and that model is one that the GAA in general seem slow to adopt. No one is saying it is an ideal scenario. A game played on an artificial surface is going to take on a much different tone to one where lads are slogging through the mud, but isn’t it better to have that rather than having to postpone games and then having a backlog of fixtures to get through at the end of the year?
The word is that plans are afoot to eventually develop something like this at Clare GAA’s Centre of Excellence in Caherlohan, and if that comes on stream, it will be a fabulous resource to have. Maybe it is something the GAA could look at on a national level, to have one full size 4G pitch in every county in order to help alleviate fixture congestion in the winter and spring. They have deemed it necessary to increase the cost of tickets to attend games with the promise of that extra revenue filtering through to the clubs. Wouldn’t giving out grants to each county board to help with offsetting the cost of developing a 4G facility be a prudent use of those funds?
We have already had the debate in recent weeks of “When is a 17-year-old not 17-year-old” in relation to the eligibility criterion for the U-21 grade. Now this week, we had another conundrum when an English man was announced as the FAI’s Young Player of the Year.
Declan Rice eventually put us all out of our misery when his internal struggle ended in him declaring that despite picking up underage caps for Ireland, he was in fact an English man. Now, it was not exactly a reveal that you would get at the end of an episode of Scooby-Doo, but yet there were those who were surprised by it.
The logic, if you can call it that, behind this latest PR cock-up for the FAI is that the Soccer Writer’s Association had already voted Rice as the winner of the award prior to his defection to the country of his birth. Surely they could have had another vote before going public with this decision and give the accolade to a player who actually appreciates the honour, but more importantly, qualifies to be called the best young Irish player of the year?
The cherry on top of the farcical cake was the announcement that Rice would be present at the awards ceremony to collect his piece of crystal. How many times have I said it? Common sense. Turns out it is not all that common.