Time for the GAA to break out of ‘English’ shires?

Frank McNally in yesterday’s Irish Times (subs needed), reckons the GAA’s English inspired county system is doing his native Monaghan no good. Indeed, he ‘argues’, a bit of flexibility might just open up whole swathes of Gaelic Games to stiffer competition:

…consider my own county of Monaghan, formerly part of the ancient territory of Oriel, which also comprised much of current-day Armagh and Louth.

It has been noted that, in its shape on the map, Monaghan bears an uncanny resemblance to Iraq. And it can be argued that its borders are just as arbitrary, incorporating a sort-of Kurdish north – independence for which might have implications for neighbouring Tyrone – with a Sunni mid-west and a Shi’ite south. Control of oil resources would not be a problem in redrawing borders (except perhaps for diesel-rich South Armagh). And yet even a reduced-sized Oriel could be a football superpower.

In fact the GAA would improve both its cultural authenticity and the level of competition by relaxing the rules about county borders. This would mean allowing not just the use of older boundaries – so successful for the Munster rugby team – to create viable units. It would also mean returning to a truly Gaelic Ireland when borders were more fluid and could shift as needs dictated.

Imagine this scenario. Kilkenny are seemingly bound for yet another routine Leinster Hurling Final victory, against Offaly. But on the eve of the final, at a press conference to name their team, the Offaly selectors instead announce that they have formed a confederation involving Dublin, Laois, Carlow, Wicklow, and Wexford (with generous sponsorship from Waterford City Council). Who knows? If they got Kilkenny on an off-day, they might even win.

  • Dewi

    Brilliant….as a matter of interest Mick – When do you sleep ?

  • sean

    “…a truly Gaelic Ireland when borders were more fluid and could shift as needs dictated… “

    Interesting but just a few questions. Is anybody able to expand on this? Who decided when the “needs dictated” such “shifts” and who would decide now? I think this would cause way too many problems for the GAA.

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Sean, I believe there’s a new GAA sub committee working on this at the moment chaired by Nic O hEidhir.

  • Martin

    Similar arguments regarding relevance etc. often appear in respect of English Cricketing Counties -save that the fact that many Northern English counties (eg Yorkshire) were carved out of pre-existing Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms by rapacious Vikings and therefore not technically “native” doesn’t generally feature as part of the debate…

  • Aaron S

    just to be clear, i think frank was joking

  • Martin

    Aaron S…sorry, yes, that would make sense from the tone of the piece…I seem to have had a complete sense of humour failure this morning! On the off chance you’re reading this Frank apologies for my oversensitivity!

  • sean

    If the GAA was to take a more “fluid” view of county bounderies, it would leave it open to allegations that it was allowing unfair advantages and prefernce to some counties. To explain and excuse this as something “truly Gaelic” sounds somewhat dubious to say the least!

  • páid

    I think the intelligent Frank was joking and making a point. The GAA are wedded to the county and the parish, neither of them particularly Gaelic concepts.
    Though some County and parish boundaries are more Gaelic than others!
    Good luck to Nic and the sub-committee.

    I hope they study their history books, take account of various plantations, modern-day realities, ancient population groups, geophysical infrastucture, sustainability theory, declining allegiance to Catholic Church, suburbanisation, current loyalties, provincial boundaries (don’t forget Oriel and Thomond), the emigrants, the Spacial Strategy etc.

    Should report back in a week.

  • Niall

    The main geographical limitations the GAA have is in insisting on the absurd provincial system in the Championship.

    In football, Leinster and Ulster are competitive. The other two provinces have one important game each.

    Hurling is completely absurd. Outside of Munster there is no competition in the provinces. It should be Munster vs the rest.

    Pure stubborness is the only reason these ridiculous constraints aren’t removed.

  • IJP

    Offaly, Laois, Wicklow, Dublin etc into the same team?

    That’d be like FG-Labour-Green-PDs-Gregory-Flynn-Healy Rae-Lowry in the same government!

  • Tochais Síoraí

    Páid, the sub-committee are just waiting to hear from Art Uí Fiseal, boundary expert, before they submit their final report.

  • páid

    TS. Iontach.

    Anois is an toghcháin thart, beidh muid in ann a léamh tuarascáil rúnda Art maidir le teorannaí na Gaeltachta 🙂

  • GavBelfast

    Niall, stubbornness and tradition, or money from so many matches (and replays)?

    What are the typical attendances like in games between unfancied county sides, and in mis-matches?

  • broken record

    if it aint broke dont fix it

  • Niall

    “if it aint broke dont fix it”

    It’s irrevocably broke, particularly the provincial hurling championship.

    “What are the typical attendances like in games between unfancied county sides, and in mis-matches?”

    Not good, but I don’t suggest changing county boundaries – just scrapping the provincial championships. You would get just as many competitive games, and a more interesting variety, as in the current format.

  • De Sade

    How about a Northern Ireland GAA team. They could play the Republic Of Ireland on a regular basis then.