Joe Kernan: Broaden horizons and let’s spread the game abroad
The inter-provincial football championship is being put into cold storage this year which means that Ulster will have to exercise a little more patience before they get the opportunity to retain their title.
But the resumption of the International Rules series means that the leading players from all over the country will have the chance to enjoy top-flight representative action in what I feel will be two attractive Test matches against Australia.
This, of course, is currently the only international dimension within the GAA. And yet I feel there is scope for expanding this particular aspect of our sport.
I would hope that at some stage in the future Ireland will be able to travel to places like the US, Canada and perhaps some European counties to play matches, even if the very elite players are not included in the squad.
The International Rules has special appeal because Ireland and Australia are generally well matched and they both have a similar approach.
The possibility of opening other doors at international level should be investigated. While players have a great loyalty to their clubs and counties, I know from my own experience that they generally relish the chance to represent their province or country when it presents itself.
Many players within the GAA are already global travellers and would feel very comfortable representing their country. Obviously playing standards in other countries are not quite as high as here but nonetheless great work is being done quietly by many enthusiasts who are doing their best to spread the gospel, often in difficult circumstances.
They should be given every encouragement in doing this and the best way would be for teams from this country to travel and engage with them. In this way gaelic football and indeed hurling could be further developed in many countries and competitors from there would have the chance to hone their skills.
We do not want to merely pay lip service to what our ‘missionaries’ are trying to achieve — we want to give them tangible support as they strive to achieve their goals.