Why drinking bans for GAA players should be…banned

Indulging his love of sport this week, Frank pulls no punches on drinking bans for GAA players (he’s against them), the need to address one-sided provincial finals, last weekend’s rugby action.. and adds in some local notices

I have never made any secret of the fact that I don’t agree with the relatively modern impositions of drinking bans on our GAA players. Whether it applies to our elite intercounty players or everyday club players, I have always felt that such bans are ridiculous, and possibly an infringement on players’ rights.

Now I hear the counter-arguments that players don’t have to agree to such bans, but there is no doubt that if players are ‘caught’ breaking the drinking ban, they will find themselves dropped from their respective panels.

Despite denials from everyone involved in the GAA, it is well known that many managers (both at county and club level) are rewarded handsomely for their efforts, and therefore achieving success is a big priority. And so, some managers ban their players from any socialising during the championship season, in the mistaken belief that the team will benefit from such an approach. But in a recent survey of elite intercounty players, 97% of them felt overwhelmingly negative towards the bans.

I have never understood why managers are effectively allowed to take control of players’ lives – particularly as (in most cases) the managers are getting well paid, while the players (in many clubs) are not even getting their legitimate expenses covered. (Intercounty players are meant to have their expenses reimbursed, but apparently they often have to wait a lot longer than they should, and still have to fight for their few bob).

In a new study, that for some reason seems to have almost slipped under the radar, it was found that widespread alcohol consumption and binge drinking are part of a harmful culture that exists amongst intercounty GAA players. Drinking bans actually come in for special criticism as the elite players said it created a binge drinking culture when the ban was lifted, and furthermore, caused mistrust between management and teammates.

A number of players said there was a preferable attitude to alcohol in other sports and that professional athletes could go for a few drinks without any consequences, but when the amateur GAA athlete who regularly gives up their free time goes for a few drinks, they are frowned upon by the GAA community.

Back in my day, there was no such thing as drinking bans, and if there were, they would have been broken anyway. But most players were reasonably responsible and didn’t overdo the socialising when a big game was coming up.

I don’t hide the fact that I like an odd pint now and again, so people may think I am biased, but I will never understand why young men and women allow highly-paid team managers to effectively put their social lives on hold. This new study, which shows the practice can lead to binge drinking and other alcohol-related problems, might hopefully bring about a change in the power team managers have, and let our young amateur players actually enjoy their lives.

Anyway, at the end of it all, for whatever reasons, the conclusion is that “a harmful drinking culture exists within elite GAA” – and drinking bans are contributing to the problem!


Provincial championships’ farce must be addressed

As the row over GAAGO rumbles on, with everyone and anyone having something to say about the unpalatable fact that we have to pay to see some of our national games, the inescapable reality is that something has to be done about the provincial football championships.

Three of the provincial finals, which should be the highlight of the local football season, were completely one-sided snore-fests. If it wasn’t for the gripping Ulster final on Sunday, which was won by Derry on penalties, the provincial championships would have been a total non-event. The public are well aware of the situation in those provinces, and as a result, attendances were at an all-time low.

I don’t know the answer for this, but as someone who grew up with the excitement of knock-out championship games, I find the present format seriously deficient in entertainment value. I know there are loads more games, and therefore loads more money for the GAA, but too many of them are meaningless one-sided affairs, and the public are staying away from them in droves.

At the same time, our national games are still amongst the most compelling and exciting in the world. It’s just about getting the balance right and putting an end to one-sided provincial finals by seeding the draws so that the best teams get to the finals.

Munster’s renaissance

I have seldom seen a better or more committed game than the rugby semi-final on Saturday evening between Munster and Leinster.

There is no doubt that the neutral (if there is such a thing) viewer would have been delighted with the Munster victory.

The province has been in the doldrums for a long time, but they finally went back to basics by bringing in home-grown coaches like Mike Prendergast and the legendary Denis Leamy as assistants to Graham Rowntree, and they have reunited with the grassroot supporters that used to be the hallmark of Munster rugby.

For a good few years they pandered to the yuppie brigade who liked to be seen at the games but who knew nothing at all about the sport. But it looks as if Munster has got its soul back, and that has to be a good thing for Irish rugby.

Also, hats off to Connacht, who put up an amazing battle over in South Africa against the formidable Stormers, and could easily be getting ready for a final against the Munster men. What a battle that would have been – a few unforced errors ruined that possibility, but there is no doubt Connacht died with their boots on, and did the province proud!

Local matters

Down the road, Maria Fitzmaurice tells me that thanks to funding from the GRETB, the Glinsk Community Ladies Club are at it again, with their ‘Grow it, cook it, and eat it’ programme starting on this Saturday morning, May 20th. The event will take place in Barlow’s farm from 10 am to 1 pm, with a break for tea and home-baked goodies at 11 am.

The morning will all kick off with a few gardening classes from teacher and horticulturist, Claire Hussey. She will show gardeners (both experienced and novice) how to sow fruit and vegetables using the ‘no dig’ vegetables bed method. This is a free event that all are welcome to attend, and the ‘no dig’ method sounds very interesting and worth learning.

Maria also tells me that the gardening classes will be shortly followed by Cookery Made Easy classes – so there’ll be no excuses any more for not being able to boil an egg or even bake a cake.

For all of you who know how to use your Sat Navs and Google Maps, etc., the Eircode is F45EH27, and you can ring 087 7583522 to book your place.

Meanwhile, up here in Creggs, following a number of hugely successful such events, the local ‘Minister for Bingo’, Olivia Harris, has let me know that there is another big bingo night planned.

The bingo night will take place from 8.30 pm on this Friday, May 19th, in the school hall in Creggs, with a jackpot of €500, as well as loads of other prizes up for grabs. There will also be a raffle on the night, and all proceeds are going to St Ciaran’s ladies football and Creggs NS.

Single books are €10, double books are €15, flyers are €2, and there will be refreshments available on the night. Bingo nights are great fun – you meet loads of friends and neighbours to have a chat with, and you can win money as well! How good is that?

So don’t forget: Creggs NS Hall, Friday night at 8.30 pm, and this time, hopefully I will see you there!

And finally…

The last fortnight or so has seen a number of deaths in our half of the parish, with three neighbours of ours, Dominic Hegarty, Mary Connelly and John Peter Kelly, having gone to their eternal reward.

All three were prominent, highly respected members of the parish, and to lose them all so quickly is a huge loss to the community. To all their immediate families, relatives and friends, I express our sincere sympathy and extend our condolences. May they rest in peace.