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talking point If Dessie Farrell can persuade Paul Mannion to return, Dublin will be a very different animal

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Tyrone players take a water-break during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match against Donegal. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Tyrone players take a water-break during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match against Donegal. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

Tyrone players take a water-break during the Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Semi-Final match against Donegal. Photo by Ben McShane/Sportsfile

The British Empire was once so vast it was claimed the sun never set on it.

The same could be said about the GAA. We’re in the off-season as regards inter-county action but there are still a plethora of topics to write about.

Later this month a special Congress will be held to debate radical changes in the structure of the All-Ireland football championship.

I will return to that matter at a later date. Meanwhile, the comings and goings on the managerial front are a bit like the words of ‘Lanigan’s Ball’… “I stepped out, I stepped in again.”

So, today’s column is of the eclectic variety.

Let’s start with what is now my perennial pet bug bear: how the GAA schedules its inter-county programme.

For sports fanatics like myself, last weekend was paradise and boy did I lap it up.

Of course, the Ryder Cup is over-hyped, but it is compulsive viewing, nonetheless.

This was again the case last weekend even if the outcome was obvious from lunchtime on Friday.

I’m afraid European captain Pádraig Harrington fell into the same trap as ex-Kerry boss Peter Keane.

He relied on too many players who were either past their best or who were struggling for form.

Ireland’s women’s rugby team hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when they failed to qualify for the World Cup in New Zealand next year.

I felt sorry for the players; they were out of their depth and were hung out to dry.

They discovered the downside of being exposed to the same scrutiny as their male counterparts. It wasn’t pretty.

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Apart from the sport anoraks, I doubt if too many noticed that a couple of South African rugby teams flew into Ireland last weekend to play in a competition which, by my reckoning, has changed its name eight times since its launch in 1999.

What was most commonly known as the Pro 14 has now been rebranded as the United Rugby Championship.

Last weekend Leinster and Munster hammered the Bulls and the Sharks, respectively.

Until these South African teams get their international players back, and that won’t happen until mid-December, it will remain a turkey of a competition.

But irrespective of the quality of the fare on offer, those sports got maximum exposure across all media platforms over the weekend.

While there was no shortage of entertainment in the GAA club matches, these competitions do not have a national appeal and this was reflected in the sparse coverage.

Accordingly, two of the best individual performances of the weekend were probably missed by all but a handful of diehard GAA fans.

Mayo’s Tommy Conroy gave what can only be described as a breathtaking display for his club, Neale, in a Mayo club championship tie against Breaffy.

His team were hammered, but Tommy hit nine points, six from play.

Meanwhile, a certain Paul Mannion virtually single-handidly ensured that Kilmacud Crokes beat St Vincent’s in the group stages of the Dublin football championship. He hit eight points, three from frees.

If Dessie Farrell, who has known Paul since he was aged 12, can persuade him to return to the Sky Blue shirt next season, Dublin will be a very different animal.

Look, I have written this before, but I will repeat it today; while the split county/club season is a brilliant idea in theory, the downside of it is the absence of the GAA’s flagship competitions from the shop window for so long.

And it will only get worse next year as the two All-Ireland finals are scheduled for the last two Sundays in July.

Imagine, never mind giving up September, the GAA is giving up August to other sports in 2022.

There are better solutions. My colleague Sean McGoldrick has suggested, for example, that county hurling and club football be played at the same time, with county football and club hurling then being played in tandem.

That would mean way more exposure for the GAA over an extended period and also giving club players guaranteed fixtures.

The GAA also could copy American professional sport and stage All-Star football and hurling weekends or even revive the much-maligned inter-provincial series.

Again, it could be played over a single weekend.

Meanwhile, why not play all the outstanding Divisional finals in the football league.

Don’t tell me a treble bill of Dublin v Kerry, Mayo v Kildare and Louth v Antrim wouldn’t fill Croke Park with spectators on a Saturday evening between now and Christmas.

While I’m on a rant, here’s two other issues that need to be addressed.

The summer is over, and Covid-19 is more or less under control, but the water-breaks in GAA games are still with us.

It was comical to see water breaks last weekend even as the rain poured down at many venues. We need a break from the water breaks.

The rationale behind their introduction was to discourage players from sharing water bottles during the pandemic.

But in true GAA fashion they have morphed into something entirely different from what was intended.

The two water breaks have now become the equivalent of the tactical time-outs in basketball.

Whiteboards, monitors and iPads are more in vogue than water bottles as team managers use these breaks to adjust their game plan.

I’m sure there will be time for Any Other Business at the Special Congress.

Delegates would do us all a great service by abolishing the water breaks.

While they’re at it the forward mark should get the chop as well as it has added absolutely nothing to the game.

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