Tuesday 23 December 2014

Fairer Club finals blueprint must get seal of approval

Colm Parkinson

Published 02/07/2014 | 02:30

2014 All-Ireland Club Champions St Vincent's had a 10 week gap between the Quarter Finals and their Semi-Final match against Ballinderry. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
2014 All-Ireland Club Champions St Vincent's had a 10 week gap between the Quarter Finals and their Semi-Final match against Ballinderry. Picture credit: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE

I'm delighted Central Council agreed to back the FRC's proposal to finish all club competitions in the calendar year.

It is a farcical scenario at present. Playing a provincial club final in late November or early December and then sitting around for more than two months over the Christmas period for an All-Ireland semi-final is unfair on players and management teams.

This year, All-Ireland club champions St Vincent's beat Portlaoise on December 8 but didn't play Ballinderry until February 15. That's a 10-week gap between games.

It's almost impossible for a team to maintain their momentum. On the training side there are some difficult decisions for club management to make. Should they give the team a few weeks off after the provincial final to re-energise them or keep them ticking over with one session a week? How do they handle the Christmas period? Do they start stamina work again in January? Who can they play in challenge games?

With the All-Ireland semi-final so far away it's easy to lose focus, get carried away with the provincial title and then struggle to regain form.

In 2004 after captaining Portlaoise to a Leinster Club title I went travelling around South East Asia for seven weeks. In hindsight it was a ridiculous decision. I had postponed travel plans because of our somewhat unexpected Leinster run and because of the massive break I convinced myself, and everyone else, I would be fine.

I would train while I was away (I actually did) and would still have three weeks back with the team when I arrived home before the All Ireland semi-final.

When I got home, though, I gave my hamstring a pull and missed about 10 days training and never got back to 100pc fitness. We beat Crossmaglen in the semi-final but I was awful and for the next three weeks, before the All-Ireland final, the decision to leave for those seven weeks played on my mind.

I went from being Laois and Leinster club player of the year, in the form of my life, to a shadow of the player I was before Christmas. We lost the final by a point with me, and the whole team, underperforming again.

So thanks to the FRC and Central Council a tragic story like this one, while not very common, I admit, might never have to be told again. Let's hope Congress see it the same way.

Irish Independent

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