Gráinne McElwain: We should be sensitive to tradition before seeking to sweep it away for commercial convenience

Selling the naming rights for Páirc Uí Chaoimh seems to ignore stadium’s origins

Gráinne McElwain

Gráinne McElwain

Grainne is a columnist with The Irish News. She is a sports broadcaster with experience working with Sky Sports, TG4, RTÉ, BBC and Eir Sport.

A general view of  Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork
Celtic and Republic of Ireland Legends v Manchester United Legends - Liam Miller Tribute Match - Pairc Ui Chaoimh A general view of Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork (Niall Carson/PA)

What do you want? It’s a simple question but as we all know, it can be difficult to answer.

The controversy over the naming rights for Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the role of the GPA have been in the headlines recently.

Both have got lots of air time and column inches but each party should be entitled to ask the GAA public what they do want.

The commercial reality of Cork GAA is dire with a debt of €30 million. They need money, as quickly as possible, to help pay back their debt and also keep their senior and underage teams afloat.

Success is needed to get more public buy-in and as every club and county know, you need money to make this happen. The reason the GPA was formed was to advocate for players and ensure they are looked after by the GAA.

They are there to push for the best deal possible, which inevitably can rub some people up the wrong way.

There has always been a push back to the GPA within the GAA family because the GAA allocates money to them.

They received €3.4 million in 2022 and at the recent Leinster GAA convention, chairman Derek Kent criticised the way the GPA spent that money in terms of matchday tickets, entertainment and donations.

John Prenty, Connacht GAA CEO claimed that the 70c mileage the GPA were looking for, for intercounty players, is placing too great a burden on cash strapped county boards.

There is a belief that everyone or everything has a price but when it comes to the GAA we grapple with this.

Times have changed and income needs to be sourced but the idea of selling what the GAA stands for doesn’t sit well for some.

The idea of tradition, community, amateurism and history is at a junction with commercialism and professionalism. Forgetting about those who have gone before us is problematic for many.

The sense of where we come from resonates very strongly within the GAA as most of us have got involved because our parents and grandparents brought us there.

It’s that connection and belonging that binds communities together and losing or changing this upsets us.

We remember what that connection felt like and we want to create the same for our own children.

Times have changed and income needs to be sourced but the idea of selling what the GAA stands for doesn’t sit well for some.

—  Gráinne McElwain

One of the stand out learnings while presenting the series Scéalta na gCorn for TG4 was understanding our GAA roots and for me, connections.

The series looks at the names behind the silverware in counties across the island.

The majority of us only see a cup but the series allowed us to get to know the person behind the cup.

We heard about their involvement and love of the GAA and the pride they had in their community and also the pride the community had in them.

The idea of changing Páirc Uí Chaoimh to Supervalu Páirc doesn’t feel right. It’s more than a name change.

It feels for many that we are forgetting about where the Páirc came from and what it stood and stands for now.

Compromise is the solution but it remains to be seen if the commercial entity will be happy with Supervalu Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Mickey Harte
Jim McGuinness and Mickey Harte shake hands after Derry retained the McKenna Cup Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

The Allianz Football League begins this weekend and the pride that connects us will be evident among the families and friends who will travel across the island of Ireland to see their club players compete for the county team.

It’s the rose-tinted glasses that I wrote about a number of months ago. We believe that our team isn’t as bad as we thought they were. In some cases, as the season progresses, we will realise they are a lot worse, but hope springs eternal.

Conversations in cars and bus journeys will centre on the new debutants and returning players with most people positive that things will be better in 2024.

Can Jim McGuinness lead Donegal back to Division One and more success?

Will Mickey Harte be the missing ingredient to finally get Derry that second All-Ireland?

What difference will Galway’s returning players make to their All-Ireland bid?

The battle to get out of Division Two and play in the Sam Maguire competition will be fierce with Donegal and Cork laying down early markers on Sunday.

Each of the managers know what they want out of the League, more players and to remain injury free come April.

For teams who will not win Sam Maguire or the Tailteann Cup it’s a terrific opportunity to win silverware.

For others, they need wins in the League to boost confidence while balancing being fresh for the championship.

Mayo proved that last year going full tilt for the League to win the title but then faltering in the early days of the Connacht championship.

A lesson they and other teams will have watched and learned.

A new season begins. As for the fans, what we want is a long, exciting and hopefully successful year. Enjoy it all.