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Comment: It would be a mistake to cut GAA season

By Declan Bogue

Want to know why the idea of a truncated inter-county season would never work? Because there's no chance that any Gaelic games writer would voice their approval of such a move.

After last weekend's idleness, the scale of a horrible vista opened up before us all and we saw what our lives might mean - trips to shopping centres and small talk over lemon drizzle cake to a soundtrack of cappuccino machines hissing and whizzing.

As Darragh Ó Sé once memorably said: "Sure we tried that…"

On Sunday, with every single last scrap of mano a mano called off with the ugly intrusion of Storm Emma and the Gaelic fields empty, I found myself reaching for the stopwatch in the moments leading up to the traditional 2pm throw-in, wondering where my laptop was in one of those dreams where you find yourself in the playground without your trousers. Acute anxiety all round.

Instead, during a walk around a shopping centre at that appointed time, I bumped into a couple of current inter-county players. One had filled the void by wearing a rather snazzy-looking sheepskin coat, while the other, clearly feeling the effects of more advanced withdrawal syndrome, was wearing shorts.

A few minutes later, the same county's strength and conditioning coach ambled past with his wife. In between wrestling children on and off the merry-go-rounds that punctuate such danders, we were at a loss. So we peered into each others' shopping bags and made out as if we were heading into sports shops, to at least look at the gleaming football boots on the racks.

This is just one of the horrendous scenarios of life without football or hurling. A Sunday spent worshipping at the altar of commercialism rather than getting out among people, witnessing or partaking in an extreme exchange of testosterone.

Be under no illusions what a shorter county season would bring.

For a start, writing about GAA would become a seasonal occupation. Half the year would be spent finding something else to do.

The only option would be to take a six-month contract down a mining shaft in China, where all thoughts of the relative health of your main score-getter's hamstring would fall gently away, like the minerals you are hacking at with a pick.

Another taste is in store in April, when the inter-county circus is due to pack up its tents and move on to make way for the club scene. Only that's not quite true with the situation in Division Four leaving a league final at that level as possibly the most scrutinised and written about game ever in the basement division.

Perhaps because it has always been this way, it's what we are used to and, like most creatures of habit, we are uncomfortable with change.

As much as it might be said, and there is the occasional case study of a player or two who decide the commitment is not worth it, a large part of society not only crave their week-to-week fix, but need it.

A good friend of mine used to describe a Sunday game as the ultimate hangover cure after being out on the tiles the night before.

You get a shot of adrenaline that you don't actually have to provide yourself, some warm coffee in a polystyrene cup and the excuse to be out of the house among a crowd of thousands, able to shout virtually anything at all with nobody pulling you up.

Younger readers may be alarmed to know there was even more action to follow years ago, back when the National League had an October start with half-hearted fixtures ran off prior to Christmas.

The games themselves were a whole lot different to how they are now. For a start, you rarely see an inter-county man with a belly protruding over the waistband of his shorts these days. Back in the mid-90s, they were compulsory. And in among their number would always appear a certain type of genius footballer, elegant and skilful, yet totally at odds with himself when he found himself at the dinner table.

No. It might seem like a prudent thing to cut down the season, thereby cutting the painful costs associated with running a county team. But apart from all that, other interests enter the equation. Other sports would fill the void.

Some say the GAA have already made a gesture in moving the All-Ireland final forward a few weeks, but they should be careful what they wish for.

Before you know it, you will be spending Sunday afternoons standing by the escalator in a shopping centre, roaring at passers-by to pull the finger out.

And well-adjusted people have an issue with that.

Belfast Telegraph

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