As this column may have previously mentioned, ‘sport mirrors life.’
With not a lot happening on the playing fields at the moment, the chattering classes are preoccupied with off-field activities; namely the introduction of the two-tier system into Gaelic Football. This move is nothing more than common sense and why a quarter of the two-tier counties involved are set against its introduction is beyond comprehension. Is it not better to compete against counties of similar standard than to be ‘slaughtered’ by the likes of Dublin or Kerry?
Starting from next year, all teams currently playing in Division 3 or 4 of the league will take part in a separate championship. In every sport there is grading – mostly self-regulated as teams win and lose and move up or down the pecking system. All any team has to do, in any sport, is to keep on beating what’s in front of them and that’s how you move into the top tier. Obviously some GAA counties feel there is an easier, softer way of doing it. Most of us know it is almost impossible to start at the top
Look at how well the tiered system works for English soccer? Teams and individual sports people need to start off playing at their own level. When I played league squash, there weren’t two tiers – but four tiers. (Modesty prohibits me from answering the question being shouted from the stands – as in newsstands!) Shane Lowry didn’t start off playing golf in ‘tier-one’ where he now excels. He just got on with ‘beating whatever was in front of him.’
Now, let us accept that in sport, as in life, it is not fair. Some counties have a distinct advantage by way of financial resources and population base. But when a team goes out on the field it is fifteen against fifteen and the playing pitch is now a level one. One of my great sporting tingles is the memory of the 2004 Leinster quarter-final when Paul Conway put the ball over the bar in injury time to give Westmeath a two point win over Dublin. (As Ross O’Carroll-Kelly might say; ‘I only give out that information to state a fact!’)
Anyway, back to sport mirroring life. On this planet the only place that people are equal is in the eyes of God. In an ideal world, we would all be equal players and all taking part in tier-one living. But this is not the way the thing works out or how society operates. We live in a two-tier world and those born into the second tier have to be able to play better than tier-one players in order to win their way.
In life as well as in sport, it is possibly to get out of tier-two but it isn’t easy. Tier-one players start life with a decided advantage. (Similar to Dublin footballers) Their parents have more money, know all the short cuts and they are born with the expectations of success. Tier-one players will go to expensive schools and then no question about going on to university. Their back-room team will know the ‘go to people’ so that their charges can play in their chosen position.
As against the above, your second-tier under-age players will start with no advantages other than drive and natural ability. They will have to overcome disadvantages and clear many hurdles if they want to be in tier-one – but it is being done all the time. The first point to be scored has to do with acquiring strong motivation and self-belief. He or she will live frugally and study hard. He could work on the buildings during his summer holidays. She may seek a job in an Irish pub in Spain.
The important fact is that this young player is now in the game. Instead of whining and wailing at the imperfections and inadequacies of the two-tiered system, the player realises that all he has to do is keep on beating whatever is in front of him – one at a time.
Playing in tier-two, she will learn more cop-on in that first year than will her silver-spooned, tier-one, competitor in all of her college days. Promotion to the higher tier of life doesn’t look so daunting anymore. Life may be unfair – but there are equalisers along its path.
So now let those moaning tier-two footballers get on with it and accept that all they have to do to get to where they claim they should be, is just to be better than whatever is in front of them!
Talking never brought home the turf. (Martha Comaskey)