Oisin McConville: Whether staying with home clubs or moving away, striking the right balance is crucial for players

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the word ‘commute’ has to a certain extent been taken out of the dictionary.

his would appear to be particularly so in the case of the GAA. Indeed, it could be said that the virus has seen a transformation of sorts take place within Gaelic sports and a transformation which I for one think could become even more manifest.

It was the desire of Galway football star Shane Walsh to express his wish to link up with fashionable Dublin club Kilmacud Crokes rather than remain on the books of his native Kilkerrin-Clonberne club that really struck a chord with me.

His disclosure came just a week after he had been voted man of the match in several influential quarters after his stunning performance against Kerry in the All-Ireland Final at Croke Park.

Yet if Walsh’s request is rather surprising, it is nonetheless understandable. Since the pandemic extended its tentacles into this island at the start of March 2020, it has triggered a whole new outlook in terms of commuting.

Many thousands of people who were accustomed to making the lengthy daily grind from their home places to centers such as Dublin, Cork, Belfast, Limerick and, yes, Galway suddenly discovered for themselves that it’s an ill-wind that blows no good.

Suddenly the inviting prospect of working from home was a reality, life became rather more tolerable and sport began to get a larger slice of attention.

The upshot is that many footballers, hurlers and ladies players from their two codes became more involved with their local clubs and counties, reveling in the freedom emanating from not having to log up considerable mileage daily.

And it has worked vice-versa too. Many university students and those in employment in the cities have cemented their roots in clubs in those same cities.

But facts have to be faced. There are a lot of Dublin-based players who will never get the chance to play for Dublin yet might well fit the bill for a county squad of which one of their parents might just be a native.

When Westmeath won the inaugural Tailteann Cup a few weeks ago, Jack Smyth was one of their outstanding performers. His club? Skerries Harps in north Dublin. And as Monaghan pursue their quest for a new manager, Jason Sherlock, who was No.2 to the legendary Jim Gavin during Dublin’s dominance of the All-Ireland series from 2014 to 2020, finds himself a short-odds favourite.

And his potential no. 2? None other than former Dublin player Kevin Nolan, who is currently still turning out for the modest Cremartin club just a few hundred yards up the road from the Monaghan Center of Excellence.

I have no doubt that we will see much more of this kind of toing and froing as players strive to adapt to new lifestyles.

Indeed, I think that players who have returned to their home clubs and those chosen few who have settled down in big cities and opted to play for the counties in which they are located can considerably boost interest in GAA.

With the demands made by inter-county managers and the fact that clubs are becoming more progressive in their operations, I feel that if players are more readily available for training and related activities then this can have a very beneficial effect on a club or county.

We have been assaulted on all sides on the subject of players striving to get the right lifestyle balance. If players can achieve such a balance, then their prospects of making a significant headway will be facilitated.

I have no doubt that many players are very enthusiastic about moving onwards and upwards at a personal level but are currently handicapped by excessive traveling and perhaps long working hours.

Striking the right balance is never easy but I recommend players be true to themselves first and then give their commitment to club or county, or both.

Ladies are really showing us their true worth

Last Sunday was truly Ladies’ Day, no doubt about it.

England won the European Women’s Soccer Championship while Laois landed the All-Ireland Ladies’ Intermediate Football title and Meath retained their senior crown. Antrim and Fermanagh have been left to battle a second time for the All-Ireland Junior football title following last Sunday’s draw.

I may have taken issue with aspects of the ladies’ game a few weeks ago but I have to acknowledge that the commitment, skill and passion shown by all six sides at Croke Park last Sunday were first-class.

Indeed, the ladies’ sport was seen in a glowing light with raucous fans helping to maintain a din throughout.

There is no doubt that the ladies’ game on this island is going from strength to strength, but then isn’t ladies’ sport in general reaching for the stars right now?

Just take a look at Leona Maguire in golf and Rachael Blackmore in horse racing. And don’t forget to lob in the Irish ladies’ rugby team who are not behind the door in parading their wares.

While I admired the skill and composure of the England team, I was also hugely impressed by the sheer effort and doggedness of the Laois team that beat Wexford.

They certainly put in a huge effort and underlined the rewards that character and courage can bring.

I bemoaned the quality of fare in ladies’ matches just recently but I don’t think anyone could take issue with the menu in Croke Park last Sunday.

Meath’s resilience, energy and, yes, physical power proved crucial in a game in which Kerry were brought to their knees.

What a pity that a player like Vikki Wall is leaving the Royal County to participate in Australian Rules football. Ireland’s loss is a Down Under gain.

And if Antrim and Fermanagh serve up the sort of fare in next Saturday’s replay, I will certainly not be complaining.

There was drama in all three Finals that helped keep fans enthralled.

The challenge for the ladies has been to get males on board in terms of paying customers and I think that has now been achieved. It would be great to see males coming out to matches other than Finals but I feel this will happen on a bigger scale.

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