There is a classic Father Ted scene which brought us the immortal line “Is there anything to be said for saying another Mass?” When Ted and the other priests are trying to think of ways to help Dougal get off the milk float, the best idea that they can come up with is the tried and tested.
Dermot Morgan was at his brilliant best, pleading with the others. “Another Mass. That’s our best idea? This isn’t a time for Mass, this is a time for action!” And while the practical solution he came up wasn’t perfect, it was an improvement on the alternatives.
I can’t help but draw similarities between this and some of the discussions that are being held around the country this week in relation to the proposals on the structure of the Gaelic Football Championship.
The tried and trusted is hard to move away from. It’s what we know.
But it has had its go.
Why not try something a bit different. There is nothing to be lost and everything to be gained. Not many people react well to change. But most people can get on board with something that leads to improvement. If indeed they actually want to see progress!
Some are so entrenched in their ways that they simply refuse to even entertain any benefits that a revamp would bring. The tale of the scorpion and the frog come to mind. When at the end, the frog asked why the scorpion had doomed them both, he replied “I couldn’t help it. It’s in my nature.”
No matter what evidence you provide to some, they will stick to what they know.
Most people have heard the details involved in Proposal B, which at its core is a swapping of the league and championship in the intercounty calendar. If you haven’t, check out any of the Off The Ball or The GAA Hour/Colm Parkinson podcasts of the last week.
The benefits of this proposal are there for all to see. And hit on all the major areas. More competitive games for teams. A levelling of the playing field. Fairness of competition. More games played in better conditions, for both players and supporters alike. The possibility of increased revenue for the GAA. Players, managers and chairman from all levels have thrown their weight behind this, from Brian Fenton in Dublin and Colm Collins in Clare, to Michael Duignan in Offaly and Niall Morgan in Tyrone.
The main sticking point for some of those who have been against this proposal would be the provincial championships being devalued, and the loss of revenue that would follow. I find this hard to believe really, given the number of games is going to be increased.
The Munster Championship alone is going to go from 5 games to 17!
On the revenue side, it has swung wildly from a €10m windfall for the GAA, from figures produced by Fixtures Review Task Force member Conor O’Donoghue, to a negligible loss according to GAA Finance Director Ger Mulryan. Either way, there is no financial reason not to go for Proposal B. Something the GPA were quick to point out.
As far as Limerick are concerned, Proposal B would be welcomed with open arms.
Leaving aside the Covid interrupted 2019 and 2020, the normal playing season for a Limerick Footballer would have guaranteed only 9 competitive games – 7 in the National League and 2 in Championship. Most of those games taking place at a time of year when hot water bottles would be needed on the bench and “no hopping the ball” would be roared from the sideline as another move was lost to the elements.
Under Proposal B, Billy Lee’s men would be looking forward to a minimum of 13 competitive games – 5 in the Provincial Championship played in Spring, 7 in the new Championship League in the Summer and 1 more in either the Sam Maguire or the newly formed Tailteann Cup, depending on results.
That could easily stretch to 15 games with a few positive results.
The value of this increase in games to the development of players cannot be overestimated. And beyond that development piece, to see competitions which are mapped out in a way that give opportunity to progress would be huge.
How many players around the country have walked away from the game or not committed themselves wholeheartedly? Because they saw no genuine possibility of advancing or achieving anything. The immeasurable ingredient that is hope, and what that can do for a player. Or indeed a supporter.
Imagine looking forward to Friday or Saturday Night lights in Páirc Uí Rinn or Thurles during the Spring or bringing the likes of Kerry to a jam-packed Newcastlewest.
And knowing at the beginning of the year when you buy a season ticket that you will be able to map out your whole summer with confidence. And at the end of it all, even if results don’t go your way, there might even be the possibility of trip to New York to play the locals.
While Proposal B has struck a chord with the vast majority of the stakeholders involved, like any change, it won’t suit everyone. There will understandably be some teams and officials who feel the status quo would benefit them more.
But Leonard Nimoy’s Spock put it best. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs on the few!” The GAA has been so progressive in other areas in recent years.
And we can do so much better than “another mass”.