International Rules Not OK
In this morning's Irish Times, Mickey Harte, the twice All-Ireland-winning Tyrone manager repeats his criticisms of the International Rules series, which first he stated this time last year around the time of the ill-fated visit of the Irish team to their AFL counterparts. In support of Harte, TSA republishes a piece written on October 28th last year, after the end of the series, under the headline, "Listen to Mickey and End the Madness". Most of it still applies.
One point not covered is the justification of the series through the arguments that the players enjoy it and that, with both games in this year's series likely to sell out, the public do too. My response is that the players would probably enjoy mudwrestling with Las Vegas hookers and, most likely, plenty people would pay to watch that too. Doesn't make it right.
So the annual absurdity that is the International Rules series is over again. The GAA and AFL's yearly bastardisation of their games saw Ireland comprehensively beaten by an Australian team who learned well the lessons from their own hammering last year. As big and tough as usual, they added speed and vastly improved kicking ability to leave the Irish looking feeble in comparison.
Right, can that be the end of it now please?
It may sound like sour grapes in the face of Ireland's defeat - like not wanting to play anymore and taking the ball home with you - but this series is surely more trouble than it is worth. The only valid role it plays, as far as I can see, is affording elite amateur GAA players the perk of a biennial jaunt to the Antipodes in well-earned reward for their unparalleled commitment throughout the inter-county season. But isn't that what the All-Star tour is for?
As a sporting entity the game's integrity is dubious. This mangled code often appears to be the equivalent of what watching Roger Federer play tennis with a cricket bat might look like: you can see the ability, but it is being refracted through a prism of sporting farce. The obvious panic in the Irish players' eyes as they try to dispense with the ball before being clattered is like that of a small boy being chased by playground bullies.
The definitive comment on the game is that it basically dispenses with many of both sports' finest characteristics. Namely, the GAA players cannot display the sidestep, the dummy, the mazy solo run, because the rules are weighted in favour of the Australian 'anything goes' tackling style. The glory of the tricky corner-forward bamboozling an exasperated corner-back is absent.
For the Aussies, the smaller dimensions of the pitch and the less dramatic canvas it thus provides detract from the awe-inspiring nature of their sport's mark-taking, and the breathless athleticism of their running.
Another driver behind the game's existence is the desire to have an 'international' element to Gaelic Games, with the belief that this code will perform some sort of missionary role for the GAA. Look, you can't go on about how the GAA is a cultural cornerstone of Irishness, how it helps define exactly what we are, and how it touches an innate part of our soul like no other game, and then bleat about internationalism! Isn't that what soccer is for?!
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte is an outspoken critic of the game. He bemoans the promotion of this game at the expense of Gaelic Football and is wise to its fundamental pointlessness. He's a wise man, is Mickey, and I'm with him on this one.