Name The Team Late For Programme’s Sake

The changes on the Monaghan team are as follows….

If you haven’t heard that, I am sure you have heard some variant of it. It’s become accustomed to the paying GAA public that the team in the programme isn’t going to start.

“I’ll be back with you, I’m just going down to find out the changes”, is probably the most repeated phrase from John Duffy, Willie Hegarty, Damien Donohoue and Alan Gunn before a live game.

Knowing the team is a key part of commentating or reporting on a GAA or game or in fact any sport, having to follow up changes, well that’s just a part of it.

My first trip to Croke Park, I remember my dad’s first action, buying a match programme and proudly turning it to the centre page and revealing the Dublin and Meath senior teams.

I remember those days as an excited young man heading to Croker, the teams having been announced on a Thursday.

On that first trip to Croke Park, I clearly remember the stadium announcer announcing “There are two changes to the Dublin team”.

I may have been only eight, but even then my thought was, “What is the rush in naming the teams.”

In my working life, it’s accustomed that the host team’s P.R.O will now hand me the programme followed by the line “23 for 15, 17 for three, seven and nine have swapped.”

So nearly three decades since I first walked into Croke Park, I keep asking the question, what is the point of naming teams so early?

To actually quote the current GAA rulebook (many thanks to John Fogarty of the Irish Examiner).

“In the Championship, a withdrawal of sideline privileges and €1,000 fines are applicable to those counties who do not submit their match-day 26 to the Central Competitions Control Committee before 9am on the Thursday before a weekend game. A team that adds a player not registered in the original 26 forfeits the game.”

And from this season for the Allianz League,

“Counties who do not submit their 15 starting players and 11 substitutes to the referee 20 minutes or more before throw-in will be fined €500 per individual breached and/or the manager in question will lose his sideline privileges for one game.”

So hard friction in this game, but what is the actual issue here? Why are the GAA hierarchy and supporting public so infatuated with the team being named on a Thursday lining out on a Sunday?

The argument I heard from many quarter’s was “So the programme can be printed!” But come-on it’s the 21st Century people.

Printers now have the ability to print x-amount of programmes the night before a big game or as a media man, can I suggest a slip-in team sheet, printed even that morning.

Is it such a crime that 40-minutes or so before a soccer international that Ireland announce their team for a big game in the Aviva Stadium, firstly via Twitter before the stadium announcer or journalists have their copies.

As a soccer fan, one thing I learnt early in my sporting life was to bring a pen with me to soccer matches. The soccer programme’s had the full panels listed in the centre pages.

What’s now called fan engagement, then was simply writing no.1 beside Packie Bonner.

Change is wanted in so many quarters even being trialed with suggestions of lunacy like only kicking side-lines balls forward or preventing four hand passes in a row.

Yet a simple straight forward suggestion such as wanting to name a team 20-minutes before kick-off is met with some kind of Hersey not seen since the Roscommon witch hunt of the 17th century.

In an era where some English soccer clubs are requesting that programmes should no longer be published, highlighting weakened sales, why are the GAA determined to keep team listings live, whereas soccer always used paper and pen to update their teams.

What is evident is that managers in particular, Malachy O’Rourke, Jim Gavin and Declan Bonner like to make late amendments to their teams.

Now that annoys some people! does it give Dublin, Donegal or Monaghan an advantage? Possibly, but in this era of hyper analysis and sports physiology, the benefit of it should be minimal.

I can easily imagine the team briefings from any manager in the country starting with “I expect them to play a sweeper” or “I expect the full-forward to drop off”.

Not in nearly 20-years has any Gaelic football team looked at the opposition line-up and expected Jimmy the corner-back to be in all-out war with Johnny the corner-forward on the high ball and left it at that.

The game has evolved, the media has evolved, and it’s time to let the manager announce their side close to throw-in and for the GAA to focus on real problems.