Saturday 24 June 2017

Clubs have the power - go use it

No need for new players' group if grassroots take control of their destiny

St Brigid’s celebrate winning the Roscommon SFC club final on Sunday. The Roscommon senior and intermediate finals took place at the weekend – a full 13 weeks after the county team was eliminated from the All-Ireland race. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
St Brigid’s celebrate winning the Roscommon SFC club final on Sunday. The Roscommon senior and intermediate finals took place at the weekend – a full 13 weeks after the county team was eliminated from the All-Ireland race. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Compare and contrast headlines from two reports, eight months apart, in this newspaper.

'Club players will feel a bit let down' - February 29.

'Appalled Rossie club to set up first CPA branch' - October 24.

The 'appalled' Roscommon club is Kilmore; CPA stands for Club Players Association, a new organisation born out of frustration at grassroots level. Kilmore's anger arises from being forced to play a Connacht IFC game last Sunday, the day after winning the Roscommon county final.

"We have reached a point where our club is no longer prepared to accept competition structures that give no certainty or regularity to club games and expose club players to unjustified and unwarranted physical and mental demands," said the Kilmore statement.

Submerged

It went on to claim that club games 'have been pushed to the edges, submerged by the overriding demands of inter-county activity.'

Now let's check back on the 'club players will feel a bit let down' headline from last February.

It did not come from a player who was forced to play four games in a week, a disgruntled club manager or even a presidential candidate seeking to portray himself as a grassroots hero.

The speaker was, in fact, GAA director-general Páraic Duffy, following the rejection by Congress of proposals designed to create more room for club activity in the summer months.

They weren't even radical. Calls to have extra-time in drawn championship games, to bring the All-Ireland senior and minor finals forward by two weeks and to scrap the intermediate hurling and junior football championships were all rejected. Correction. They fell because of the ludicrous insistence that rules can only be changed by a two-thirds majority.

The proposals, which were backed by Central Council, won simple majorities but a system that's deemed good enough to elect world leaders doesn't suffice in the GAA where one vote beats two when it comes to amending rules.

So here's the scenario. The GAA's top executive has been proposing change for a long time and is at it again now in his latest plan to shorten the inter-county season. Many of his plans have been backed by Central Council.

Obviously, clubs everywhere want change too so why isn't it happening? Enter county boards and, to a lesser degree, provincial councils. Ultimately, county boards are responsible for running their affairs and since each club is represented, the power should emanate from local level.

Kilmore are furious over having to play twice in 24 hours last weekend. Rightly so. But here's a question: why were the Roscommon senior and intermediate finals played a full 13 weeks after the county team was eliminated from the All-Ireland race?

Granted, the intermediate final went to a replay but it was always risky fixing the decider for a week before the start of the provincials.

The county team exited the All-Ireland race on July 23 so why were county finals three months later? Several other counties had even longer delays between All-Ireland departure (it started on June 18) and county finals.

Destiny

Yet, by the end of September, Down and Kilkenny, who played their final in early May, were the only two counties to have completed their senior football championships.

Nothing will change unless clubs take charge of their own destiny. There's no need for a CPA if clubs everywhere use their power to make decisions which suit them rather than county managers or other vested interests.

Kilmore chairman Tommy Kenoy was one of the major driving forces behind opening Croke Park to rugby and soccer, campaigning relentlessly for several years before it won sufficient support.

It happened eventually because club members considered it the right thing to do. Kenoy had helped push the agenda but ultimately it took a grassroot movement to drive change through. It's the same now.

County Boards are comprised of local delegates so clubs have real power. Why they haven't used it remains a mystery.

In fact, it has reached a stage where they need to make a choice - either take control or stop complaining. Otherwise, today's problems will be just as prevalent in 2026.

Irish Independent

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