Below find an article in the Westmeath Examiner by journalist Bernie Comaskey. What do you think?
“People are afraid of ‘splits’, but not all splits are negative or bad. Look at all the successful partnerships you know, where the two principals went their separate ways, spawning an additional business where both parties proved equally successful.
I have come to the conclusion that the best prospects for the future of our national game, hurling, is that a Siamese style operation be performed to separate it and Gaelic football. Hurling needs its own association if it is ever to grow and prosper – as befits the greatest game of all. Both codes could have their separate association, all under the auspicious of the GAA governing body, which would also govern Handball, Camogie and Ladies Football.
Hurling and football have very little in common, other than being bed-fellows of the GAA family. Both sports would progress far better without being shackled together, and this applies especially to hurling. Hurling needs to be run with its own committed hurling men and women, at the helm, with no other agenda or distraction other than the promotion of the game they love. GAA Central Council would still be the supreme ruling body for both associations; drawing up fixture lists, adjudicating on disputes, dealing with complaints and so on. A percentage of gate receipts would go to Croke Park. Sponsorship would continue to be the main source of revenue for both codes.
As things stand at the moment, hurling is being suffocated out of existence in several counties. In actual fact, little else but lip service is being paid to what they all call, “the greatest field game in the world” – before moving on to give the practical support to football. In one of those old black and white newsreels which filmed an All-Ireland Hurling Final, Micháel O’Hehir tells us that the 32 young hurlers marching behind the band symbolise the GAA’s aim of putting a hurley into the hands of every boy in the 32 counties. No progress has been made since then – no matter what anyone may tell you. The 1980’s did look as if the barrier had been broken, when five different counties won ‘McCarthy’, but it would be a foolish man who would bet on any other than the top three counties these years. In other words, the thing is in reverse at the top, while down in the lower tiers, counties like Cavan consider it progress NOT to play a county team in this year’s league. County Boards in predominately football counties will funnel their limited resources into a drive for football success for the county jersey. This is not a criticism and quite understandable: In fact most fans support their county where there is the greater hype and chance of success, whilst some of us will equally support both codes. Naturally, the more success a team enjoys the more support it receives – financial and otherwise.
More than any other organisation, Ireland owes a huge debt to the GAA. No praise is too high for the succession of enlightened GAA leaders who took the organisation to where it is today – the greatest amateur association in the world. But because of its monumental success, does this mean we ignore its failures? I don’t think so – no boundary should be placed on progress. If, in its 127th year, only a couple of counties have a realistic chance of winning the All-Ireland Hurling Championship, this is a failure of the association. It doesn’t have to be this way. The situation can be vastly improved, but a drastic change is warranted and a drastic change should not be feared.
There are enough inspired people involved in Hurling, Gaelic Football, Camogie, Handball and Ladies Football to administer and promote each sport as an autonomous entity. Each sport would be the better for being on its own without anyone else dragging out of it and there would be very few on committees who didn’t care about the sport in question.
Yes, there would be rows and disputes over a player’s allegiance and which team had first call on him: But is that not how it is now? The day of the dual player is over in most counties and the player has to decide what he wants to play and with whom. A young Dublin hurler was cruelly deprived of his Leinster U-21 hurling medal last year, when football manager, Pat Gilroy, refused to release him from the football panel to play a match. It would certainly be no worse under separate bodies for both codes. Not only competing Gaelic games, but rugby, soccer and other field sports are all canvassing the same pool of players. Young people have access to far more sporting opportunities than a few years back and all manner of clubs are competing for the good hurler; because guys who are good at sport – are good at sport. If the player is good enough, and the club is strong enough, it will seek exclusivity. Let them all, including the football club, try to inveigle the hurler to give first allegiance by all means – but give the hurling club the same influence and persuasion to canvass for its young players. This can only come about in an undivided club and where all members are totally committed to the game of hurling. Too many county officials throughout the land have hurling as the poor relation of football – when the opposite should be the case. Hurling needs its own hierarchy and its own organisation. The time has come to give hurling men a sporting chance.
There is no more exciting competition than a knock-out cup and hurling needs one such competition. In the Centenary Cup of 1984, Laois got to the final, after a series of memorable matches. By cutting out some meaningless matches in leagues and championships, room could be made for a cup competition, with a totally open draw. This would produce novel pairings, shock results and great entertainment for hurling fans. One more thing; I have always been an advocator of making it easier for a quota of hurlers to transfer from strong to weak counties and all of the above is this column’s blueprint for “putting a hurley into the hands of every young lad in the 32 counties.”…………………………”