The International Rules series is in sport’s intensive care unit and, unless delicate surgery is performed quickly, it’s passing will become inevitable.
When Ireland manager Anthony Tohill was part of a high-powered delegation which travelled to Dubai some years ago to negotiate the re-birth of the competition after violent scenes had prompted a sharp halt to the series, he little thought that the last rites might have to be administered so soon after its resurrection.
But the reality is that the Rules concept, for all its admirable idealism in relation to GAA players getting a rare opportunity to represent their country, is now falling down in the one vital area — it is unable to pay its way.
Last year when Ireland lost the two Tests to Australia, in Limerick and Dublin, an aggregate crowd of close on 90,000 saw some €300,000 profit generated which is being used to fund the current safari Down Under.
That might seem like a huge sum but to transport a squad of players, management team, back-up personnel and administrators to Australia and keep them there for the best part of three weeks will surely make a substantial hole in the funds.
In addition, a number of week-end squad sessions were held prior to departure and this also involved a considerable outlay.
Now, with just 22,921 followers having attended Ireland’s one-sided win in the Melbourne Test and serious concerns that this figure might not even be reached for the second Test at Gold Coast this Friday, the series is hanging by a thread.
An anticipated Ireland victory on Friday — or even a 43-point defeat, which would still see tourists lift the trophy — will have a hollow ring to it should there be a disappointing crowd and low-profile media coverage.
Yesterday upwards on 100,000 attended the Melbourne Cup.
That certainly puts the Rules series in the tuppence-halfpenny place. Australia are not due to travel to Ireland until 2013 and while it is hoped that the global economy will have picked up by then, there are fears that the series has lost its appeal.
When GAA Director General Paraic Duffy is openly admitting that the series is under threat, then time is surely running out.