'Appalled' Rossie club to set up first CPA branch
One of the main driving forces behind the opening of Croke Park to rugby and soccer in the middle of the last decade is throwing his weight behind the newly formed Club Players Association.
Out of years of frustration, which came to a head last weekend when his club Kilmore had to play two games within 24 hours, Tommy Kenoy and fellow members plan to set up the first local branch of the CPA as an act of support for the national movement.
The CPA is being formed by ex-Monaghan selector Declan Brennan, who will unveil plans for a strongly supported lobby group in the next two weeks seeking to improve the way club fixtures are delivered.
Kenoy was the architect of successive Kilmore motions that went to Congress at the beginning of the 2000s calling for Croke Park to be opened. He was an ardent campaigner in those years, and in a letter sent to the Roscommon County Board, Connacht Council and Croke Park in his capacity as club chairman, his anger at the treatment of clubs is palpable.
The letter has been put together on behalf of all players, members and supporters of Kilmore who say they "are appalled at the downward spiral within which club fixtures have existed over recent years".
"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," it says.
The final straw for Kilmore came last weekend when they had to play a Roscommon intermediate final replay on Saturday before turning their intention to the Connacht club IFC quarter-final against Galway's Monivea-Abbey on Sunday.
"We left the dressing-room in Strokestown at 4.30 on October 22 and took the field for a warm up 19-and-a-half hours later in Tuam with players who were physical and mental wrecks from the day before," they explain.
"It proves that the spin we hear about the physical and mental welfare of players and the importance of club games is nothing more than that: spin."
The weekend before, Donegal intermediate champions Burt had to play an Ulster club game against Bredagh within 24 hours of their county success, which had come after extra-time.
Kilmore also hit out at the Connacht Council for refusing to postpone the game as a mark of respect to club president Frank Dennehy, who had also been president of Roscommon County Board.
"We heard of his passing as we boarded the bus for Tuam and contacted John Prenty, the Connacht Secretary, requesting a postponement; yet the Connacht Council said no. Shame on them," the letter reveals.
"The crisis in club fixtures has come about through piecemeal decisions made at county, provincial and national level over many decades.
"There was never a clearly defined national strategy aimed at serving the needs of players at both club and inter-county levels. The result of this is that club games have been pushed to the edges, submerged by the overriding demands of inter-county activity."
Kilmore said they will form the local CPA branch to help make clubs the GAA's priority again.
"Club games have been marginalised, county CCCCs have been forced to squeeze them into ever tighter schedules, club players have been exposed to unjustified, unmerited and unacceptable physical and mental pressures," they say.
"Kilmore GAA is no longer prepared to allow this utterly unacceptable situation to continue. We have decided to form the first local branch of a national 'Club Players Association' that we know will be formed soon.
"We do not intend to be a confrontational group unless that becomes unavoidable. We simply want to work towards competitions structures that will give club games and club players the status and respect they deserve.
"Our strategy will be based on our belief that the club is the basic unit of the GAA from which everything else springs, inter-county players, administrators and supporters.
"Arising from this reality, it follows that club games and players must receive priority status.
"Club competition structures must be put in place first and everything else must be made fit around that rather than the other way around as is the case at present. We will not rest until that goal is achieved."
Connacht Council, like the other provincial bodies, like to 'hold the line' on their fixtures, putting the onus on counties to finish their club programmes on time.