There are 90,000 reasons why Dublin are headed for Kilkenny and not Portlaoise
When are people going to stop being outraged by the GAA making money-motivated decisions?
Player burnout, Championship structures, sponsorship inequality... the same hoary issues are raised at the same time of every single GAA year. You don't need a barometer to assess climactic conditions... you just need to listen to what GAA folk are grousing about and you'll know.
Player burnout? Late January, early February - Sigerson, Fitzgibbon Cup and Allianz Leagues getting into full swing.
Championship structures? First mooted in November/December when there is nothing else to write about but ramping up around February when it is once more not dealt with at Congress.
Sponsorship inequality? April/May when Dublin are dining on swans at their new jersey launch and Kerry head off to the moon for a training camp. Meanwhile Carlow and Leitrim train in Ireland, like animals.
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) May 10, 2016
Right now the hot button issue is Dublin leaving Croke Park. Mick Lillis says they are going to the wrong stadium and it seems the rest of the GAA world all of a sudden agrees with the Laois manager.
“It’s not Dublin’s doing, it’s a Leinster Council decision and it’s a crazy decision. We’re not happy with it, but there’s nothing we can do about it because it’s out of our control," raged Lillis after Laois unconvincingly beat Wicklow on Saturday. In O'Moore Park.
“It think it’s a pity that the people that have supported Laois over the years, the people who have put their hands in their pockets for GAA clubs over the years, the businesses in town and around the county, don’t get a bit of a kick-back with the Dubs coming to town."
In case you were unaware. Lillis and lots of other people are angry because Dublin's first trip outside Croke Park for a Championship match in 10 years is to a neutral venue, rather than a genuine away fixture.
Dublin's last trip abroad was to Pearse Park in 2006, where they very, very rapidly got back on their bus after a narrow two-point win over Longford in a Leinster quarter-final.
Dublin didn't enjoy their trip to Longford and were very happy to get out with a win and very happy not to dawdle in the dressing rooms afterwards. They were very happy to get out in a hurry.
So, Laois are understandably upset they are not getting the opportunity to discommode the Dubs at their, admittedly, very well-appointed stadium.
Unfortunately, the people who make these decisions, the Leinster Council (ie Laois and their 11 provincial buddies) decided to fix next month's quarter-final for a neutral venue.
What if Wicklow had beaten Laois (not that fanciful after that Laois display at the weekend)? Would the Dubs have made the short trip uphill to Aughrim, one of the country's most atmospheric (small), intimidating (terribly appointed), inaccessible (traffic armageddon) grounds?
That was not the deciding factor. The deciding factor, as always, is money.
Money is why the provincial championships will not go away. Money is why 20 year olds will continue to be pulled this way and that by countless teams and money is why Donegal and Kerry players can prepare with warm weather training camps while others are left waiting for mileage.
Why are we still surprised or angry when the GAA make decisions motivated by money?
O'Moore Park has a capacity of 27,000, Nowlan Park 24,000. However the Kilkenny venue's 18,000 seats make it a far more attractive venue than O'Moore Park, with just 6,000 seats.
With a stand ticket costing €20 and a terrace ticket €10, a full Nowlan Park could deliver €420,000 to the Leinster Council coffers - nearly €100,000 more than the €330,000 a capacity O'Moore Park can earn.
(Show your workings: Nowlan Park - 18,000 x €20 + 6,000 x €10 = €420,000. O'Moore Park - 6,000 x €20 + 21,000 x €10 = €330,000)
The Leinster Council are already going to be hit in the pocket taking Dublin away from Croke Park, so getting as many of them as possible to pay twice as much for the privilege of a seat will at least soften that blow.
All that talk about the facilities that Dublin's Croke Park-coddled fans are accustomed to and the idea of spreading the football gospel to a county that couldn't give a damn about Gaelic football is nonsense.
There are €90,000 reasons why Dublin and Laois are going to Nowlan Park and the above two are not among them.
Granted, the money earned during the one-horse race that is the Leinster SFC helps redevelop O'Moore Park and Nowlan Park, so how angry do you want to get about this?
1. You could get really angry for a short, defined period of time. As is the tradition.
2. You could become angry, stay angry for a prolonged period of time and remain angry until there is some sea change in how the GAA do business.
3. Or you could not be angered by the fixing of this match for Kilkenny, accept that the GAA, like most of us, take financial calculations into consideration and buy yourself a ticket for Nowlan Park.
My guessing is most will choose number 1.
Me? Number 3.
Laois play more games at home than most counties, including their opening fixture last weekend (a double header that was attended by fewer than 5,000 people). They'll want a better plan for beating Dublin than playing on a pitch they are well acquainted with. I like the novelty of a big football match in Kilkenny.
Most importantly this current flame-up is just the GAA equivalent of rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic that is the provincial championship system.
That is what I am really mad as hell about and I'm just not going to take it anymore. Until August. Then I'll forget about it.