Referee Sean Cleere with captains Bill Cooper and Declan Hannon in Fenway Park
THE GPA and GAA brought the Fenway Hurling Classic to Boston last Sunday.
Both the idea of four counties travelling across the Atlantic and the structure of the game itself have been the centre of much debate.
Last Sunday was the third running of the Fenway Classic – 2015 and 2017 the previous years and just like this year there are those that are totally against ‘money’ being spent on the exhibition style format abroad.
The criticism is that the money should be spent developing hurling across Ireland and not in the US. Without the actual figures it hard to be definitive. Aer Lingus and Fenway Sports were backers of the exhibition this year but would they be prepared to divert this money elsewhere into the GAA – it’s probably unlikely as both were targetted sponsors for this event.
“It’s important these things wash their face, that they pay for themselves,” said GAA President John Horan after Sunday’s final in Fenway Park.
“Fenway Sports are very keen to keep this going and the critical thing from our point of view is that it is washing its face and it is not taking money away from any of the clubs or the development programmes we are carrying out,” added Horan.
So it appears that the GAA President does see a future for the event as long as it doesn’t cost the GAA and rightly so.
On top of the games on Sunday, there were also a number of fund-raising ventures across the weekend – by the respective counties and the GPA themselves.
I was in Boston for the weekend, so there may be unease with me articulating the positives, but the welcome was broad for all the visiting teams and I encountered Limerick people from across the US who journeyed to Boston for the weekend.
“It’s a good opportunity for the players to come out here and mix with the Irish community out here. I was out in Canton on Saturday morning where Limerick trained and they did a meet and greet with the locals. That’s key that we meet with the local GAA out here and that’s where I see the big benefit,” said Horan.
“It’s a chance for them to meet the stars, many of them can’t go home, and as I always say at home as an amateur organisation our stars are very touchable in the sense that you meet them in your local club or local shop and they are not like the professional stars who have become nearly icons at a distance,” he added.
The games were also broadcast across the US on NESN and there is a potential TV audience there certainly work exploring. There is a history of GAA teams going to Boston, tracing back to the 19th century and for what I saw the weekend, it’s certainly well received in the US, albeit the attendance was down.
As long as the event doesn’t cost the GAA money, and targetted sponsors can be sourced, well then it’s worth-while.
As for the format itself, well I wouldn’t be a fan.
If hurling is to be brought across the Atlantic or indeed any part of the world, then it should be hurling. The Fenway Classic is played under modified rules of Super11s.
Yes, its pacy and there’s plenty goal-mouth action but far too complicated for any instant recognition.
Give me a 15-a-side game of hurling any day but of course the issue is finding a playing surface big enough and one with the necessary stadium capacity.
The players certainly enjoyed the format, saying it’s even more physical and pacy than regular hurling. But of course they were taking it for what it is – an exhibition format.
When viewed as just that, Super11s can be entertaining but not a patch on the real thing.