The first International Rules test went to prove that you can’t manufacture sport.
With the aggression all but absent, the spectacle was sterile – though the speed was something to marvel, according to Irish manager Sean Boylan. “The Tyrone and Kerry lads who have experience of All-Ireland finals in recent years were amazed by it,” the Meathman said.
Still, I’m with his former captain, the Sunday Tribune’s Liam Hayes! (some man for the exclamation marks), who wasn’t won over by the civility of the exchanges. Velocity is no substitute for excitement. Fast doesn’t automatically mean good. Ireland won, and fair play, but their shooting was woeful. Don’t forget the Aussies are the ones who play with a strange ball but Ireland only managed six proper points.
The GAA and AFL may feel they’ve achieved a breakthrough in terms of discipline (though it’s hard to imagine the home side going down without a fight, possibly literally, this Friday) but for me the whole series remains a futile exercise – even if the participants are playing with pride.
Plus, it will do nothing to stop clubs Down Under from poaching our best young players with dubious promises of fame and fortune. Indeed, the worrying thing is that by making the compromise game safer, it may encourage Irish players into believing they could cut it in the southern hemisphere – where thousands of laid-off Irish tradesman are already destined in the coming year.
Mayo football manager and Fine Gael TD John O’Mahoney told the Oirceahtas committee on sport last July: “There are players from my county who have gone to Australia in the past year, some of whom are being exploited in many respects because they end up on 15,000 or 20,000 Australian dollars per year, which is not the minimum wage. They have stars in their eyes and think that they can become like a Premiership player in England.
“At the time I did some research on what is happening in Australia. The public perception is that it is great that these players are brought out and they have a great career ahead of them. Some 80% of them are on the average industrial wage and most end up looking for work at the age of 35 with no qualification having left college early in Ireland.”