Donal Vaughan transferring clubs 30 minutes apart is not what the GAA is about 11 months ago

Donal Vaughan transferring clubs 30 minutes apart is not what the GAA is about

The GAA is not about winning.

That's the aim, it's what everyone's striving to do but the vast majority of club people will never experience the win that they'll spend their whole lives chasing.

It doesn't make it any less meaningful or any less fulfilling.

In any year, in either code, only three senior clubs in each county will win. Three. The rest of them will be sent packing into another winter of wound-licking, rebuilding, and renewing vows and promises. If you're not lucky enough to put it right in the 15 or 20 years that you get, you don't win your championship and that's it. Most people have to face up to that reality and they have to live with it thereafter.

It doesn't matter.

It's not about winning a championship in whatever way you can, it's about everything that happens in between being born into a community and either reaching the top or falling short.

It might sound like a cheesy cliche at this stage but the GAA, much like everything else, is just about the journey and the climb.

Jim Carrey once said:

"I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it's not the answer."

Granted, winning a championship medal along the way is going to satisfy a lot of Gaels but then, when the cold morning of January comes again, the world is still turning and the journey continues and all you really want to know at that time is that you're going back down to the same frozen pitch with the same stinking gear bag with the same people you call brothers and sisters.

Donal Vaughan has taken a lot of flak for his decision to transfer from Ballinrobe to Castlebar.

Not even a half hour stretch of road lies between the two clubs but as Vaughan's home parish got relegated to the intermediate ranks for the first time in 15 years, the Mayo player has linked up with the senior champions. He'll win his championship medal now with the Mitchels but who really cares?

He's not a Mitchels man, it's not his cause and he could not be invested in those dreams and fears and loyalty that drive your commitment to your club. Those are the same things that get you out of bed to show your face at underage training on a Saturday morning and the same reason you whinge at minor games about the lack of players coming through and the very same motives that have you bitching over beers or a poker table or both because you can't get away from it because it's part of who you are.

All over the country, GAA players find themselves exiled from home and, subsequently, they're in danger of losing that way of life that has moulded them and harboured them. For a lot of them, it's just about being part of something bigger than you. It's about building an empire from your community and, whether you conquer the land or not, you'll look back at the building process as some of the best days of your life.

Sometimes, the real world drags you away from that alternate universe where the only thing that matters is the movement of a size five piece of leather in some obscure rural field with about 50 people bothered to show up. Youngsters move east for jobs, some have to leave the country and it's damn hard to move on but, eventually, they make a new home in a new club and they make different allies with different team mates who are, ultimately, the same characters with the same drive. Some might never have kicked a ball before but they're on your team, they're part of your club and they're building with you and, regardless of whether you make it or not again, they're your people and they're your home.

It's a tough thing to do though, leave behind those club rooms and gyms, the pitches, the team rooms, committee meetings, the changing rooms and, most importantly, the people who made you the person you are. Those are the places you dreamt your biggest dreams and they're the very same people who, for the first time in your life, you put before yourself. And you did for the good of the club - because it's your club, because you were aiming for something together.

Donal Vaughan is now living in Castlebar and maybe he has that affinity with the place and the people and maybe he wasn't as romantic about his own club in the first place. He's taken a shortcut to surefire club championship glory but you really have to wonder at what cost it has come.

It's not about the medal, it can't be. If it was, this sort of thing would be happening all over. It's not about what you win, it's about who you're winning with and, yes, who you're failing with becuase it's not even about winning.

Vaughan has moved tribe - 20-odd minutes from home - and, sure, he'll win a few more battles now that he's better equipped but it was never the tribe he wanted to win with or the one he wanted to conquer with. It was never the fight he wanted to fight and, really, if this whole thing, the magic of the GAA and the beauty and the meaning of home can be whittled down or traded off for a piece of silver, then what's the point?

Really, what is the point?