Martin Kiely – Disconnect between grassroots and Croke Park is growing wider

Martin Kiely – Disconnect between grassroots and Croke Park is growing wider

THE GAA has lost its heart and soul and this once great organisation is no longer in touch or interested in the values that made it such a part of our culture.

The slide towards a corporate culture took place some years ago and sadly it was further advanced at Congress last weekend.

The disconnect between the grassroots and Croke Park has grown wider by the year but now it seems players and clubs don’t really have a voice.

The GAA that I grew up with no longer exist. Our special games of hurling and football are now controlled and influenced to a great degree by money. Big companies are creating the agenda for the GAA and the power of money takes precedence over the games, players and clubs.

Rural Ireland has suffered greatly over the past ten years and many GAA clubs are just about hanging on. The decisions made last weekend wont in anyway help clubs if anything we will see streams of young players leaving the country for the summer months.

The big will get bigger and the small will just decay even further. Will the decisions made help Limerick football? The answer is no.

Not one bit and in the long term their chances of advancing will further decline.

Croke Park can say and present all the facts they like and those that chose to ignore the views of the people that matter most have done a great disservice to the organisation.

I really fear for the GAA in the long term. The rural clubs made the GAA, they built the foundation and created the energy that played a key role in the development of the games.

Now the base is weak in many counties and the organisation has become top heavy. The decision to have a super “8” will suit the bigger counties.

When the back door was introduced in hurling it was supposed to benefit the weaker counties but has anyone of them made the breakthrough?

Along the way the odd team might get a lucky break but overall this decision is about making money and will do little for the development of the games.

The views of the players were ignored, yes the GPA came to the table very late and that was just not good enough. The same organisation wasn’t slow when it came looking for a share of the gates.

Can they really speak out on this matter? They have just signed a deal that will see them get millions from Croke Park.

This organisation wasn’t slow when it came to withdrawing their services in counties and it will be very interesting to see their next move. This is a test for them.

Their members voted in huge numbers against the proposal and if they really care about their members they should withdraw their services.

The Club Players Association (CPA) was started about seven weeks ago and were also against the proposals.

I am not really sure where the CPA are at. They look like they don’t really have a vision and plan for the long term.

That said both of these organisations are in place and Congress showed no value in what they had to say. Croke Park did a fair job of selling this package.

Many of the County secretaries are paid by them and I am sure they were doing the business on the ground. While the big guns also rolled into County Board meetings to press the flesh.

The sad reality of all of this is that County Boards are now doing what they like. Just look at Limerick.

Recent years will show that clubs are not even considered. Take convention for example. Clubs are lucky to get the report a couple of days before convention and will only see full accounts on the night.

Some of them are afraid if they do ask the hard questions they will suffer in the long term. Is that anyway to run an organisation?

The GAA went on the corporate journey some years ago and sadly the train has run away with them now. The lads at the back of the train are shovelling the coal while the blazers dine at the top.

In July and August of next year we will have nineteen football championship games.

Over the same period we will have just five hurling games. God be good to hurling.

Football people are now setting the agenda for the GAA and it would appear hurling is not part of that agenda.

All this old rubbish about developing hurling in weaker counties. Well, very soon the list of weaker counties will be added to.

Hurling is on its knees, sure we will have the odd bit of magic but I fear for the game going forward.

The game of hurling needs an inspirational figure because if things continue as they are the game will die in clubs and counties.

It has already happened in Limerick and many more will follow.

Just look at some of the parishes and towns that are struggling to field teams.

The GAA might well have big numbers in Dublin and a few other places but that only confirms my point that the strong will get stronger and the weak get weaker.

I judge most things in the GAA by the men and women who have done and I hope will continue to do great things at club level. These are the real leaders of the GAA.

These are the volunteers that made the GAA what it is. Those great people that cycled to Thurles to found the GAA in 1884 have long since turned in their graves.

Those people inspired generations and created a culture that played a key part in the development of rural Ireland.

The GAA has become really intoxicated by money. Yes lots of it flows down to clubs in grants and so on but any organisation that fails to head the views of the people on the ground will pay dearly for it in the long term.