If you can ignore the shaky camera work, get by the fact that the production is not as whizz-bang-pop as the professionals at RTÉ or Sky and make peace with having no replays, there is rich enjoyment to be had in the YouTube broadcasts of the Club Championships going on out in Chicago right now.
At the weekend, there was a broadcast of Parnells against McBrides at Gaelic Park, Chicago’s self-billed premier Irish venue in America.
It’s a salubrious place alright, booked out for weddings years in advance, with a full-sized pitch and some bleachers for the spectators to kick back on and sup on their Big Gulps.
They are determined to show off their shiny things. Last week, the Ireland Network Chicago — a collective name for some fairly wealthy business connections in the city — were brought for a day-long tour of the place. Later on in the year, you can expect a shakedown and some financial support for what they are doing out there.
The games themselves are commentated on by John Quinn. I know, you can just picture the man by his very name. A man who could be any age from 40 to 65, who has enjoyed a bit of living in America and become accustomed to a big engine and an automatic gearbox and drive-through coffee.
And yet he retains a vice-like grip on the Roscommon accent, the sporting tastes and their own fashion from back home. A check shirt at all times. And, if it’s a scorcher, a short-sleeved check shirt.
Riding shotgun alongside him for the venture is co-commentator ‘Scruffy’. We’re fairly sure that Scruffy is not his real name, but we will die wondering as Scruffy is all that he is called.
If they keep going in the form they are in, they could end up as an internet sensation within weeks. Among all the yarns and slagging they dole out were some clinkers.
When a ball dropped short to Luke Mulholland, the Antrim goalkeeper, it opened the door for Quinn to say: “Noggy was telling me that Luke Mulholland is laying brick for him this summer. He loves laying brick, but he loves his nice hairstyles even more so. How about that? Anyway, away we go.”
On they go in this form. A play by a man from Westport prompted a few hints of epic drinking sprees in ‘Weshtport’ and touched upon Carrick-on-Shannon.
And then when he noticed he didn’t have the timer set — “Don’t worry about it,” said Quinn. “Could happen to a Bishop!”
“That’s Val McMahon,” chimed in Scruffy. “He looks just like a rate collector!”
What really struck were the riches of talent on the pitch.
The likes of Mulholland, Rian O’Neill, Conor Meyler, Barry O’Hagan, Michael McKernan were doing battle against promising Mayo hopeful Paul Towey, who hit 1-17 of his side’s 2-21 total, Enda Hession, Jack Carney and so on.
Young men having a nice break from the old routine back at home. How could anyone in their right mind begrudge them that freedom?
But there comes a time when you have to examine the circumstances around this.
We are going to talk about the new system of a split-season.
The debate around it has too much emotion swirling around. Those that feel the county season is crammed into too short a timeframe are shouted down by those urging them to get out there and watch a club game; to get among ‘the people’.
The debate has taken on the stifling conditions that the county game is rich and wealthy and looks down its nose at the great unwashed club games.
That’s all good and fine and has its place. So let’s look at what is happening in practice.
The Na Fianna hurling team in San Francisco played ‘Tipperary’ at the weekend. On their team sheet of 26 players, 15 of them were ‘non-resident’. You can only have five non-resident players on the pitch at any one time. Na Fianna had the likes of Joey Holden and Colin Fennelly from Kilkenny and Brian O’Mara of Tipp.
As mentioned, Parnells and McBrides had untold riches on the pitch last weekend in Chicago.
There is a boiled frog scenario playing out in front of our eyes. At the minute, players can start the year and play in the National League and then Championship for their county.
Once that is over, they can then travel to America to play in the Championship over there. And if circumstances allow, they can also return in time to play in the Championship for their club at home.
Domestically, in some counties the club Leagues are done and dusted. Antrim wrapped up theirs a while back. Over the weekend, Cavan — a county that reached the Tailteann Cup Final — played their League decider.
It used to be that the clubs got the best deal. In counties such as Derry, the players played nearly all, if not all, of their club League games because of clever scheduling.
The only change now is that clubs never see their county players until the Championship. It still runs at the same time, or in some cases later in some counties.
And in a straight knockout system, those players could be out of football until the county season starts up again.
All in all, it might be 10 or 11 months before the clubs see their county players again.
They might have had their players for around 20 per cent of the season, but supporters of the split-season will praise the ability of players to book holidays and the ‘certainty’ that it provides.
Is this satisfactory?
It couldn’t be.