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The relationship between the media and GAA managers is broken beyond repair

None of the eight football teams involved in the All-Ireland quarter-finals this weekend held a press briefing involving players.

Cork manager Kieran Kingston shakes hands with Galway manager Henry Shefflin after the All-Ireland SHC Quarter-final at Semple Stadium in Thurles. Photo by Sportsfile

Sean McGoldrick

BORIS Johnson and the GAA might seem strange bedfellows.

Still, I cannot help but think they have one thing in common – their capacity to make a bad situation worse.

Just when one imagines the British Prime Minister’s personal integrity could not sink any lower, a new scandal surfaces.

For those who don’t follow his travails, his latest spot of bother centres on an allegation that he attempted to install his then girl-friend and now wife Carrie Johnson as his chief of staff when he was foreign secretary.

And just to add a layer of intrigue, the Times of London newspaper - which broke the story - then pulled it from later editions.

Turning to GAA matters, I assumed that media access to players couldn’t get any worse than it was during the two years of the Covid-10 pandemic. I was hopelessly misguided.

This is the 35th championship I have covered at national level and is unquestionably the worst in terms of the media access to players.

Just to make sure I wasn’t exaggerating, I glanced back at the 2019 files of the Sunday World, the last championship before the pandemic.

During the month of May the Sunday World published 13 interviews with the then current players. So far this season, we have interviewed three players, Michael McKernan (Tyrone), Mike Casey (Limerick) and Sligo’s Pat Hughes. And remember after this weekend there will be just eight teams left standing.

Only Hughes was made available by the county. The other interviews were done at the official launch of the All-Ireland football and hurling championships respectively.

It is now as bleak as the Sahara Desert when it comes to media access to current players.

None of the eight football teams involved in the All-Ireland quarter-finals this weekend held a press briefing involving players. Well, maybe they did but I wasn’t invited.

Kerry’s Jack O’Connor held a press conference last Monday but none of the other seven bosses have been available.

Galway hurlers held their pre-All-Ireland semi-final press gig last Monday afternoon – there was one guest, Henry Shefflin.

His Limerick counterpart John Kiely gave an injury update on Wednesday. But is it unclear whether it was an official press gig.

We haven’t heard anything from the Clare or Kilkenny camps. But the presence of a reporter from the Kilkenny People at the official launch of the All-Ireland hurling championship – team captain Richie Reid was available for interview at it – suggests there was limited local access.

The lack of respect team managers have for their local papers is unforgivable given the amount of space they devote to GAA affairs. And it is not just the high-profile counties who are at fault.

There was a farcical situation a few weeks ago when no Kerry hurlers were made available to the local media prior to the Joe McDonagh Cup final, yet one of the team travelled to Dublin a few days before the game for an official press conference.

Listen, I know few care anymore and I sound like Dylan Thomas’s ‘rage, rage against the dying of the light’ when writing about this topic again.

Admittedly there were mitigating circumstances this season; the All-Ireland sponsors and the provincial councils were unable to host their usual launches at which players do attend because of the now-revolved dispute between the GAA and the GPA.

Furthermore, the truncated inter-county season means that the gap between games is shorter and there is less time to organise press gigs.

But the relationship between the media and team managers is so broken now it is probably beyond repair.

What is more disconcerting is the Pontius Pilate approach the GAA hierarchy have taken on the subject.

They simply don’t want to know and most certainly don’t want to do anything to tackle the issue, which inevitably would mean challenging the power of county team managers.

Their refusal, for example, to release the official squad of 26 players which County Boards have to submit to Croke Park on the Thursday night before games is indicative of their attitude to the needs of newspapers.

The standard excuse always trotted out is that the players are amateurs and unlike professional soccer or rugby players are under no obligation to give interviews.

But it could be argued that inter county GAA players are not amateurs – they are provided with an annual stip-end by the taxpayer.

With the exception of Dublin’s sponsors AIG, none of the other county team sponsors appear interested in inserting a clause into their contracts with County Boards insisting that players have to do so media gigs while still involved in the championship.

Of course, as soon as the All-Ireland series is over players will miraculously find their voice again and turn up at various sponsored gigs.

Had I any say in the matter I would boycott all those post All-Ireland sponsored gigs.

For the moment though the players have taken a stricter vow of silence than an order of Trappists monks.

All we are left with now are cherished memories of long chats over lunch with players who still managed to go out the following Sunday and produce exceptional performances.

Then somebody dreamed up the term ‘control the controllables’ and we got the boot.

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