Irish Examiner Sports Column Nov 28 2008

November 28, 2008

Get out of the fire and into the frying pan

IF YOU are a member of the GAA, chances are a letter flopped onto your hallway mat in the last few weeks, one which began with A Chara and ended with Is Mise Le Meas. Chances are — unless you were extraordinarily unlucky — it wasn’t a communication from the Civil Service asking about your expenses docket from a nail bar in Florida.

The letter was an invitation to your club’s annual general meeting. Such meetings can move easily from the mortal plane to the zone of legend — a favoured memory of this column is the man who accused junior selectors at one AGM of being unable “to pick a snot white” — and are often
approached from a well-fortified
vantage point, if we can be delicate. The niceties of GAA procedure are known to very few people, and the
articulation of club policy can be a
difficult process. Its enforcement is a whole other set of problems.

Thunderous denunciations are not unknown at these gatherings, and
neither is the tendency to ‘go again’, with many officers being returned
unopposed to positions they have held for many years. At some AGMs progress is confused with revolving
officerships, much as the members of a volleyball team move around after
conceding a score with no real difference in personnel.

It’s easy to complain about seeing the same old faces at the top table in your GAA club, but much as we complain about seeing the same old faces in
Leinster House, if you don’t participate in the democratic process it lowers the moral high ground somewhat when you come to criticise.

The same principle applies to the GAA club. It’s often overlooked that in many cases those same old faces would be more than happy to hand on the reins to others. Every GAA club in Ireland is staffed with men who swore blind going out the door to the agm that This Was It, only to slink back home and confess to their family that yes, they were prevailed upon, for one more year/just to tide everyone over/to give the club a dig-out — and stay on as secretary/treasurer/registrar.

Such news is usually greeted with ample proof that thunderous denunciations are not confined to the AGM proper.

This year such meetings should be better attended than ever. The GAA faces serious challenges from within and without like never before — or not since we all got middle-class thanks to the Celtic tiger, anyway.

There are tensions within the
organisation, at all levels, and the
economic downturn is likely to ask some searching questions of the
Association as a whole.

While there’s an obvious attraction in staying near the fire with your DVD box set of The Wire Season Five (Will Bubbles be able to stay off the dope?), try to resist that urge. Go to your club AGM. Get involved in the debate: ask your officers and delegates questions, or better yet, stand for office. Take some responsibility.

The rewards are not immediately visible. The prospect of giving up a couple of nights a week to sit in a draughty room debating whether or not to suspend young Murphy for
giving cheek to his uncle at an under-15 game seems daunting. and it is.

But if you are a member of the GAA you reaped the benefits of other men’s work when you were younger, the men who gave up their nights to make sure there was a game on a Saturday. True, we’d all like to think that there were no competing attractions for our spare time back in the 80s, but even then those officers had lives to lead
beyond the committee room.

It’s the good fight. As Tom Cruise said in The Firm, it’s not sexy but it’s got teeth. They may be false teeth, but you get the picture.

After all, the GAA isn’t a stadium. It’s not a provincial final, or a bunch of men in suits at a press conference. It’s not a woolly concept or a secret known only to select initiates.

It’s you.

Go to the annual meeting and do your best. At the very least, don’t settle for the same old story.

You can see where that’s gotten us.


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