Back to the Future – In Reverse!

What will the GAA Landscape look like in Thirty years’ time, 2047

BY Anthony Cunningham 10:56 Thursday 22 June 2017, 10:56 22 Jun 2017

Back in 1985 ‘Back to the Future’ was  an American science-fiction adventure comedy film directed by Robert Zemeckis and written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. It starred Michael J. Fox as teenager Marty McFly, who were sent back in time to 1955 where he met his future parents in high school and accidentally became his mother's romantic interest. Marty and Doc had to find a way to return Marty to 1985.

What if, in 2017, we reversed the scenario and sent the 2016 Hurler & Footballer of the Year, Austin Gleeson & Lee Keegan, along with Aogán Ó Fearghail, Uachtarán Cumann Luthchleas Gael, in the opposite direction on such a time machine and dropped them into the 2047 GAA landscape?!

What different, new inventions or surprises might they see?

GAA Club Scene

Will they witness a club scene that has an ‘Open Season February to End of April’ and a ‘Closed Season of June, July and August?’

Really the club players must be catered for, but clubs and their players cannot have it both ways. The mass exodus of current club players to the USA from June to the end of August is hard to argue against, as they provide summer work, travel experience and a few dollars to play, as well as a really good social outing (hard to turn down Cisco bay at this time of the year!!).

However unless the season for club players is called one way or the other that allows travel or vehemently stops travel by forbidding  a closed mid-season, the standards of the game in hurling & football will deteriorate.

Why? Very simply put, players cannot practice and hone their skills in their most formative years during the best seasons of the year to play in. The release of county players to play at club level and an overall fixtures plan laid down by a central GAA committee is a minimum requirement and quite frankly not rocket science.

The Game Itself

No doubt the skill levels will continue to rise & thirty years hence we will see even more sublime moments of skill ala Gleeson’s point for Waterford last Sunday or Tyrone’s counter attacking displays.

We will undoubtedly witness even greater use of the ball, greater passing precision, smarter decision making in creating space and openings for scores, greater abilities to block, hook and tackle.

As we enter an even more professional set up at club and county level in the preparation of teams, can the fitness levels continue to increase?  Or is there a saturation point? Surely there will be a point of levelling-off before we enter the next stage of a professional or semi–professional game?  Only then will we see the next level of fitness gain. This, coupled with daily rest, daily recovery plans and injury rehabilitation, increased team and play analysis preparation and execution levels, will advance the GAA to the levels the international professional sports teams.

Professional Top 8 Intercountry Teams in Hurling & Football

Unavoidable as many would want it to be, there will be a top 8 professional team set up with contracted players and managers in our football & hurling intercounty sport. This involves home and away games with a “Super Bowl “ All Ireland final for the top two teams and a relegation to a lower tier for the bottom team, with an end to “dead rubber “ qualifier games .  Dublin would provide two teams in both hurling and football, such is the emerging playing population in the capital.

Will there be an economy to sustain part-paid of fully-paid players & management? Yes, but only for a smaller number of teams. Why?  The brand ambassador market is already here for our top players; the sponsorship model has massively expanded in the past 30 years. Player contracts are issued today in the form of GPA grants and this scenario will only increase. 

Development Pathways for Players

Surely by the middle of this century we will see an integrated Government Health Program with the State Sporting Organisations. Exercise is the cheapest form of medicine and a planned program that utilises our many sport science graduates could be utilised to educate our next generation of players. A dedicated coach for all clubs will therefore be possible through our education curricula. 

Media, Community Involvement

A dedicated “pay per season” GAA TV channel will be the next chapter from todays “continuous sports coverage”; the next step for a ‘Newstalk’ style radio reporting but on TV. Integration with local radio coverage of club games (all of which are today video recorded by teams) will cater for worldwide live streaming.

For now this time machine doesn’t have a reverse gear. How will we recover our three amigos from 2047?

Two are needed for Qualifier Rounds and one to present cups in September. I don’t know how we can communicate that to the Waterford & Mayo Supporters!

This article was brought to you in association with Bord Gáis Energy, proud sponsor of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship – keep up to date and follow #HurlingToTheCore


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