Alas, work commitments mean I won’t be able to see the Minors take on Dublin tomorrow in Croke Park. Were I not working, I would have thought nothing of spending half of my precious weekend traipsing up to Dublin and paying €40 to see a team of kids. No, it’s the work thing all the way. No doubt about it.
There seem to be two schools of thought as to why the GAA chose to schedule the Minor match with the Dublin Senior semi-final rather than that of Waterford: utter contempt for the Déise or utter devotion to the Jackeens. The first one is easy to dismiss. Come on, why would the GAA authorities hate Waterford? There may be a few embittered Kilkenny folk who would happily lose both their legs if they thought it would deny someone from Waterford a wheelchair, and with two of the last ten Uachtaráin hailing from Kilkenny they seem to have a disproportionate status in the Cumann. My father always cackles with delights at the heartbreak constantly endured by Paddy Buggy who once bewailed how, as a resident of Newrath, he went to bed one night in Kilkenny and woke up in the morning in Waterford. But the rest of Gaeldom yearns for a Waterford All-Ireland triumph as reward for all the entertainment over the last decade or so, even if only at Minor level.
The other idea, that the GAA loves the Dubs, has more merit. Colm Keys, writing during the week about the €6 million that has been spent on development of the sport in Dublin, referenced the idea that Dublin is ‘different’ to everywhere else:
Yet the perception away from the capital is that Dublin hurling is the GAA’s ‘pet project’ and that anything that can be done to make it succeed will be done. The money issue rankles in places like Wexford, a county which has felt the heat of much stronger Dublin teams across all levels in recent years.
Their argument is that if the same resources were put into Wexford hurling that have been put into Dublin over the last number of years, the same results might accrue.
But that ignores the wider argument that every GAA member must embrace. If the GAA loses the battle in Dublin, where almost 30pc of the country’s children are now born, then it could eventually lose the war.
It seems plausible then that Dublin are indeed treated as a special case, and the scheduling of their Seniors and Minors adds to this idea. Considering the difficulties they had finding their way to Thurles for the football quarter-final a few years back, we don’t want to make it too hard for the little darlings, eh?
Despite all that, I’m inclined to believe there’s a third factor at work which tipped the GAA’s hand. Everyone commenting on the outrage has taken it as self-evident that making Waterford travel twice trumps all other considerations. Yet there are other considerations. Dublin fans will be expected to pony up for not only the football semi-final in a couple of weeks – don’t sneer, if Waterford were there we’d be bringing it up too – but for the Under-21’s as well. How many seperate matches are we expecting the hardcore Dub to pay for? Then there’s the fact that of the four teams playing from Waterford/Dublin/Senior/Minor, only one are the provincial champions. Making the schedule suit them makes sense, as to do otherwise would be to effectively punish them for winning their province.
I wouldn’t totally dismiss the possibility that there’s a committee of moustache-twirling fiends in HQ laughing maniacally at the misfortune they are visiting on the denizens of the Gentle County. Actually, I would. The GAA found themselves with a scenario where someone had to disappointed and in this case we were the unlucky ones. Their reasoning was sound though and it would be better for our long-term sanity if we did something we’ve done quite well in recent times – building a bridge and getting over it.