18 Aug 2022

Then & Now: Are our ancient games leaving elderly behind?

Then & Now: Are our ancient games leaving elderly behind?

Has the GAA priced some fans out of the stands? Between Sky subscriptions and tickets, the cost for the average supporter has hit hard in recent years

IHAVE been a follower of Gaelic games all my life and have received great pleasure from both local and county matches for over fifty years. It is a great association as it unites people and communities, and its facilities are available for others to use. It is not without its faults and is often referred to as the 'Grab all association'. In a recent conversation with others, a number of issues were raised and discussed, and dissatisfaction expressed about the direction it is heading in. I will outline them as best I can for readers to form their own opinions.
The arrival of Covid hit all ages but was especially hard on the elderly, people living alone. As a result, personal contact was limited and online was necessary to do business as shops were closed. This led to Zoom meetings, courier deliveries, home schooling and working from home. The younger generation embraced the changes, but it was more difficult for the elderly to manage, and many felt lost as a result. Pride can be good, but it often masks real feelings and some people do not want to express their difficulties publicly. This elderly group from our conversation feel abandoned by the association they served so well in their young days.

The Gaelic Athletic Association was formed in Thurles in 1884 for the ordinary people of Ireland at a difficult time in our history and relationship with Britain. Over the years the association has served the grassroots very well, when not many other pastimes were available. However, in recent years people on the ground have witnessed a shift in direction away from its founding fathers’ aims. It is a business now and moving far away from its amateur status as everybody seems to be getting paid except the players, whose lives are on hold while the playing season is on. The cost of big match tickets, travel, meals and accommodation are huge concerns for the ordinary family supporters at present.
The members on the ground give freely of their time for the betterment of their clubs, but often they cannot secure a ticket for the big matches they want to see their county participate in - provincial finals and games at Croke Park. The association have to allocate a number of tickets to sponsors, businesses and corporate boxes. As a result, people with only a passing interest in the matches are present instead of the real supporters, and some in the corporate boxes never even watch the match! People have been seen reading the paper for the entire match.
The clubs do their best but there are never enough to satisfy all genuine followers.
The deal the Association made with Sky Sports has angered a lot of people (since it was signed) who have no access to the channel. A number of championship matches each year are shown exclusively by Sky depriving followers of the counties involved of watching the action. This affects mainly the elderly and those confined to their own homes and nursing homes, who are unable to travel. This deal should be revisited, and all championship matches should be shown on RTE as the TV Licence costs enough.
Having to pre-book a ticket for entry to a club match is another example of a problem for the elderly. A person living in a rural area with poor internet coverage has no access to print out tickets and depend on others to do so. This has left a lot of anger, and some have stopped attending the matches. Are the association trying to follow AIB who wanted to introduce a cashless system in some of their branches? They got their answer and surely it is time the association got rid of this booking system and let people pay at the gate, as they always did.
The jury is still out on the split seven-month county and five-month club season. Now that the county season has ended some clubs are finding it difficult to field teams as county players are going on holiday or working abroad. County players need time off as well after a hectic schedule of training, National League and championship action. Matches having to be decided after extra time by penalty kicks also came up for discussion. Criticism was expressed as it put too much pressure on the individual amateur players involved in the shootout. One replay before extra time and the first score in the second period of extra time was the preferred option to decide a match.
In conclusion after our conversation, we are growing to realise the association is business and money driven and is leaving us and people with similar views behind. We are traditionalists at heart but also realise that we must move with the times and modern society, as the association views are unlikely to change.

Kerry cow
AGRICULTURE EMMISSIONS and the part farmers will play in combating climate change into the future are a big talking point at present. The sector has received a lot of negative media press but where would we be without our rural cattle population. In time of need we depend on the farming sector to put food on the table and help us out of recessions.
It is rarely you hear of the Kerry cow breed nowadays as other breeds of cattle take prominence in most farmers herds. In past times the breed was associated with poverty and described as the 'poor man's cow' or, alternatively, it was only the rich farmer who could afford to keep them. The introduction of foreign breeds pushed the native breeds from the good land to poorer regions in the west parts of Ireland. A case of out of sight and out of mind where 'they got in no-one's way'.
The older generation were full of praise for the virtues of Kerry cows: among them the high butter fat content of their milk and their ability to thrive on mountains and hilly, boggy terrain. They were hardy and healthy had little difficulty in calving and noted for their longevity. They were easy to feed on grass and hay and did not need nuts and they could even be left out during the wintertime.
The Kerry milk is very well balanced and digestible, and with small fat globules is very suitable for cheese making and other dairy products. Maybe a new exclusive product could be created from the Kerry cow. They face a difficult future now as there are few breeders milking them and they are a dairy breed and not a beef breed. The need to have people milking them has become greater than the breeders that suckle them as it is the poorer milker's that will survive with suckling.
The breed is environmentally friendly which could make it particularly attractive at the present time. There is a campaign to save the Kerry cow ongoing in Kerry at present and hopefully the dark silk coated breed will survive to bring produce and joy to their owners well into the future.

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