The split season remains an atomic subject

Halloween is dusted off for another year. That eerie moment when fears and dreads are met with some joy? This dynamic will continue in GAA circles over the coming months.

Perseverance in discussion measures the attractiveness of a question. The Halloween dynamic could, in another sense, “bring down the turkey.” A memorable phrase I heard used by Connemara men on a building site in 1980s London, when they expected to be there for another few months, over Christmas and beyond.

Scary stories are a form of entertainment. Stories like this abound in discussions of the GAA’s immediate future. However, no miracle solution is at hand.

Restoring U18 as a minor rank offers no magic wand. Nor would it be possible to combine Minor and U21/U20 into a single U19 grade. To dig ? This kind of enhancement tactic only works once a year with pumpkins.

The winter conversation is currently a split season conversation. The thinning action in provincial club championships provides a natural pause, a de facto invitation to blame and speculation. We listen, most of the time. But how much do we learn?

Last April, Dónal Óg Cusack spoke on Sunday’s game in notable terms. He was admirably direct: “I don’t like that we gave up so much of the season. I think we handed it over to other sports to participate in. For me, September was dedicated to hurling, to the All-Ireland final.

This grip is increasingly influential. Last November, when considering the 2022 season, DJ Carey had related reservations. He was equally blunt: “I just don’t understand that we have the idea that an All-Ireland final can end in July and the rest of the year is spent on club action. I like to think that I myself am a very good clubman. I always was. But we are now rushing our main competition, we are adapting everything in six months.

Such sentiment, now widespread, cannot be ignored. I understand the frustration of both men. But allow me to offer a caveat.

This reservation concerns the idea that rugby and football are rivals for attention and recruits. This emphasis has a coherence. Fair play to Cusack for raising the issue.

However, I admit to being puzzled. Go back 20 years. The vast majority of Irish people, inside and outside the GAA, were emphatically in favor of opening Croke Park to rugby and football.

Fair enough. But consider a statistical inevitability: many people now terribly unhappy with an all-Irish final in July, and the inferred advantage over other codes, were the same people who claimed, 20 years ago, that the games Gaelic are in no competition with other codes. .

I find this doublethink to be one of the strangest aspects of Irish culture in the 21st century. What is behind the phenomenon?

Which or if, the senior finals in mid-July are a symptom rather than a cause. Any serious debate about the structure of hurling between counties must reflect, in the complete absence of sentimentality, on the merits and demerits of a province-centric arrangement.

Reel on. Does hurling really need both a league and round-robin provincial championships? Not in my opinion. The round robin system was introduced to hurling as a knee-jerk reaction to the Super Eights initiative in Gaelic football for 2018.

Between league and round robin play, the small ball sphere has simply acquired too many games at intercounty level. Start with that recognition and go from there. One of the wisest GAA men I’ve ever known insisted on a particular summary: “The hardest thing to do is almost always the right thing to do.” Another recognition hovers. While the Munster Championship remains a legendary creature, the consistency of encounters will remain a unicorn. The worst type of saddle? The one made of sentimentality.

The split-season model did not come out of a cloudless sky. This pattern arose during a stormy period over the past decade, a time when there was talk of the march to Croke Park, the stewards’ strike. You may have lamented that conversation and you might still feel the same way. But disapproval, past or present, cannot change what actually happened.

Memories can be fierce when short. A few years ago, the Club Players Association considered these drastic actions in its crusade on behalf of the regular footballer, regular pitcher. CPAs are only gone in the direction that winter is going. The CPA will reappear if certain conditions reappear.

A crisis has many facets, many of which are terrible, but a crisis also counts as a focus device. One of the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic has become a vision of alternative possibilities. This vision can no longer be dismissed. A split season version is here to stay.

One group disbanded in March 2021, issuing a clear statement: “The CPA was created in 2016 and launched in 2017 by a group of GAA volunteers to lobby and campaign on the single issue of fixing fixtures for all players. This was prompted by alarm bells over GAA player participation and dropout levels. This was due to serious concerns relating to the physical and mental well-being of the players, due to the demands and uncertainty of the playing season.”

Their statement concluded, “With Congress making the historic decision over the weekend to institute a split-season model, the CPA Executive considers its task now complete.”

The split season remains an atomic, edgy, combustible topic. Atomic, doubly: we can’t get out of the debate and in the debate are hidden elements that are not always visible. The split season is as much about the Munster Championship, truth be told, as the end of July.

Pumpkins are soaked for another year. But light, in the sense of clarity, remains essential. The split season? This subject must be sliced ​​and diced, separated into its true elements.

Otherwise the progress made will be the progress of a spinning top.

Jessica C. Bell