GAA Football

Kicking Out: All the noise is paralysing logic

Joe Brolly's voice once stood out above the noise, but that's becoming harder and harder, and the volume of voices is drowing all logic. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

LISTENING to Joe Brolly is always an interesting exercise, usually more so when he’s not talking about football.

In a recent 90-minute interview with Dion Fanning in which they covered pretty much everything in Brolly’s life, they stumbled upon on the subject of balance in society.

“James O’Brien [LBC radio presenter] has written about how balance has paralysed society,” said Brolly.

“Because you have to give a looney the exact same platform as you give a person who’s logical.

“So if you’re in the BBC, regardless of how nonsensical it is – and we know that it is – you’ve got to say to the other side ‘what do you have to say about that?’

“It’s a disease of balance that paralyses real discourse. And it then becomes difficult to know what’s true and what isn’t true.”

Although the conversation at that point actually regarded his departure from RTÉ, the mind couldn’t help but be drawn towards recent wider debates within the GAA.

The argument over whether to implement a tiered championship has become so polarised that it’s difficult to know what’s what.

Despite some very public opposition to it from counties directly affected by it, and some of the larger top-end counties such as Cork and Kerry leaving their decision until they’d heard the arguments from the floor at Special Congress, the idea managed to achieve the backing of 75 per cent of the room.

For years, a voice like Joe Brolly’s would have cut through a lot of the noise.

Indeed, perhaps there was some element of that in so far as he has, in recent years, been one of the key backers of splitting the championship up.

But there’s just so much noise now.

Sport is a game of opinions but if you multiply the voices from across all the different local and national papers, then add in the growth of TV coverage, and then the absolute explosion of online and radio podcasts, where do you even start in terms of whose opinion to side with?

There are very few voices now that can shout above it. An odd day, Tomás Ó Sé will jump out and catch the eye. But he seems like the only one now. By and large, it’s all just contributing to the noise.

And what’s happened is that no matter what they read or listen to, it’s almost impossible for the average punter to discern what’s a good idea and what’s a bad one. There are so many opinions and they’re eternally conflicting with each other.

It is exactly like politics. You can call it disinterest or you can call it misplaced trust, but just like the millions who didn’t vote on Brexit and subsequently regretted it, there’s always the expectation that those in power will do the right thing, until they don’t.

This column last week criticised the way in which it was handled and the fact that there was a Special Congress called that aided the push from the central lobbies.

That shouldn’t be mistaken for being against the idea in general.

There are ways in which splitting the championship up could work. The first and most basic premise is that you have to make winning mean something.

The second tier idea as it’s been implemented will fall flat because it’s a secondary competition. It’s effectively a shield competition for inter-county teams who get knocked out of the one they want to win.

Having two tiers is not the answer to anything. There aren’t 16 teams capable of being competitive in the top grade, and there aren’t 16 teams capable of being competitive in the bottom grade.

There should be three tiers and you make it everyone’s primary championship. Split it 10-10-12 and you make each of them fiercely competitive.

Some counties have been vocal in opposition to splitting it up but they have to look at just how far off competing they actually are, and the significant impact that their county team has on the club game, which rather than being seen as in conflict could be used to build a county team.

You run the football structures with promotion and relegation, you give the games a proper platform and, most importantly, the GAA invests its money, its resources, its time from the bottom up rather than the top down.

If the rich don’t exist for the purpose of feeding the poor, then the whole system is broken anyway, whether you tier it or not.

Acceptance is often a slow burner in the GAA but if a tiered system was done properly, it’s the way forward.

I don’t accept that argument that it’s been bad for hurling. Because quite frankly, who actually knew that Mayo or Roscommon or Donegal or Armagh even had hurling teams 15 years ago?

The fact that every single hurler in Ireland has a realistic chance of winning their championship in summer makes the game a far easier sell to players in less fashionable counties.

The top tier hasn’t been properly infiltrated but you only have to look at Laois’ run this summer.

Just look at what it meant to Tommy Walsh winning a Kilkenny intermediate club hurling title at the weekend.

But there’s just so much noise for any conscious debate to rise above that all logic has become paralysed.

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