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.