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Joe Kernan: Our All-Stars should play inter-pro winners in an exhibition abroad

We may live in recessionary times but for leading GAA players global travel is still a perk.

Next month the GAA-GPA Opel Allstars team will jet off and shortly afterwards a number of county teams who have attained success or at the very least made a considerable degree of progress this year will also be heading to foreign parts.

Such travel is in the nature of a reward for the efforts and commitment that players have shown with their counties since the start of January.

Naturally, All-Ireland football champions Donegal and hurling champions Kilkenny will head off almost by right but in more recent years it has become commonplace for those teams who have made headway without quite getting their hands on silverware to enjoy trips to, in some cases, faraway places with strange-sounding names.

Of course, travel costs have rocketed and that’s why some of the teams who are taking to the skies must of necessity contribute to the expense involved by immersing themselves in their own fund-raising activities.

It is not unusual for county teams to stage golf classics, fight nights and even fashion shows to raise money which then goes into a central holiday fund.

Teams like Kildare and Mayo, who have not managed to attain All-Ireland glory despite having been involved in the closing stages of the series in recent years, are among those that put strong emphasis on squad holidays and it is easy to see why.

Such holidays help to bond teams, allow players to get to know each other better and nurture a better understanding of what they are about.

Even the best managers cannot always guarantee that they can promote total harmony within a squad so a holiday can prove a big help towards cementing spirit in readiness for a new campaign.

Not so long ago New York, Philadelphia and Florida were the popular destinations. But nowadays team destinations can range from Dubai to Thailand to Hong Kong to Australia and to virtually anywhere in Europe.

It has become custom and practice for the Allstars to play in an exhibition match wherever they go although to be honest this is nothing more than a meaningless run-out — a glorified excuse to perhaps eradicate jet-lag.

But I believe that the Allstars can fulfil a much more purposeful role in terms of promoting gaelic football on a global basis.

Because of the harsh economic climate which we are currently enduring in this country, hundreds of players and indeed GAA followers have been forced to leave to find work and make a new life in various places across the globe.

Many of them have joined clubs in places in which they did not know clubs existed while others of a more pioneering nature have actually help to establish new clubs.

And this is where I feel that the Allstars can play a more significant role in helping to preach the gaelic football gospel.

I would be particularly keen to see the winners of the inter-provincial football championship travel out to meet the Allstars in a match that would have a competitive element and might prove an attraction for fans and those who would be keen to see the sport played for the first time.

I know that the inter-pro series has its detractors but I still earnestly believe that the players themselves are very keen to see this competition flourish and I feel that the reward of a trip to play against the Allstars team in a special game would have considerable appeal.

I can think of no better way of promoting gaelic football than by putting our very best players into the shop window on a foreign field and allowing them to display their skills to a brand new audience in a match that would have some significance attached to it.

It has been a good year for gaelic football and it’s no surprise to see players from Donegal and Mayo dominate the Allstars nominees’ list.

Donegal indeed provide the three nominees for the Player of the Year award — Frank McGlynn, Colm McFadden and Karl Lacey — while Mayo’s Alan Dillon, Barry Moran and Kevin McLoughlin in particular look strong candidates for Allstars honours.

What a boost it might be for the sport if such players found themselves lining up against the inter-provincial champions in a location in which gaelic football would enjoy a whole new profile.

Obviously it would take money to send the inter-pro champions out but I think that this finance could be generated through goodwill and a desire to see the game promoted properly rather than the staging of a rather pointless game.

Not so long ago the inter-pro final was staged in Rome, the GAA authorities taking the view at the time to nurture the sport in a rather unlikely venue.

The money needed to get two teams there was made available so surely the cash to finance a trip for one provincial side can be found for the match that I am urging should take place.

The Allstars team, incidentally, is due to be announced next week and its composition will be awaited with considerable interest.

Belfast Telegraph


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