Burnout now extending to managers frustrated by fixture chaos
Events at his own club have inspired presidential hopeful Aogán Farrell to seek reform of calendar
THE burnout virus, which has been a source of concern among over-stretched GAA players for several years, has now spreading to managers, according to presidential candidate Aogán Farrell.
It's being caused by deep frustration over irregular fixtures programming, where there's no certainty from week to week as to when games will be played.
Farrell related the experience of his own club, Drumgoon Eire Og in Cavan, who last week lost manager Martin Clerkin, essentially due to fixture issues.
"He stood down at our AGM, citing a playing season that was 'too long and too chaotic.' He has a young family but he couldn't plan a family holiday, or even a weekend away, because of the fixtures situation," said Farrell.
"He is a young, enthusiastic and totally volunteer team manager and has been a major asset to the club all the way up from U-12 so it's sad to see him stand aside because of fixture issues."
Drumgoon were promoted to the top league in Cavan this year and also retained senior championship status. Farrell said that Clerkin's departure was a setback to his club but warned that it's a sign of the times.
"The same sort of situation arises in counties all over the country. Fixture scheduling is like Easter, a moveable feast," he said.
"Young coaches are prepared to invest lots of time in their clubs but they like to know when they are playing games.
"Our club lost a team manager -- for now at least -- through hectic and rudderless scheduling. Many clubs around the country are under similar pressure because fixture calendars lack co-ordination."
Farrell's comments are supported by the findings of the Football Review Committee (FRC), who delivered a stark analysis of the club fixture scene in its latest report.
They found that 40pc of respondents to their on-line survey rated adult fixture programmes as either 'poor' or 'very poor' while 60pc of players cited lack of adherence to pre-arranged fixtures as a major source of frustration.
Almost two-thirds of players believe the club season is too drawn out.
The FRC, chaired by Eugene McGee, also found that one club had to play five championship games in 15 days last year while gaps of up to five months between championship rounds were not unusual in some counties.
The FRC has proposed that steps be taken to ensure that club championships continue during the summer months and that all counties have reached the semi-final stages of their senior and intermediate championships by the first weekend in August. They also want the All-Ireland club championship completed by December.
Farrell welcomed the FRC report, stating that anything that highlighted the problem -- while also suggesting remedies -- was positive. Club players -- exclusive of county stars -- comprise 98pc of the GAA's playing membership.
Farrell said that it was not a question of apportioning blame for the current problems but rather one of identifying the source of the logjam and clearing it.
"It's populous and unfair to blame any one group for the current situation and equally inaccurate to claim to have divine inspiration to sort it all out," he said. "However, we all must try harder.
"We have enough fixture makers within the Association to come up with a more streamlined programme for all players. Our rules are strong enough but we need to implement and monitor them more robustly."
Farrell is aware of cases where club games were postponed because of stag weekends, a situation which makes a mockery of proper planning.
"Time-tabling is everything," he said. "There should be no reason why a player wouldn't know in January when he is going to be active throughout the year. Obviously, there will be some changes but, in general, he should know the schedule. That's not happening at present."
Seeing a good, young manager step down in his own club brought home to him just how serious the fixture situation had become. Farrell said that if he is chosen as president-elect in February, he will put the club scene at the top of his agenda.
"In the past few years we have concentrated on playing rules, how our games are played and how our competitions are structured," he said. "It's now time to prioritise fixture scheduling throughout the whole Association.
"No one section of the GAA has sole responsibility here; clubs, counties and Central Council all have a role to play."
Farrell, Seán Walsh (Kerry) and Sheamus Howlin (Wexford) are the three announced candidates in the race to succeed Liam O'Neill as GAA president in 2015. The election will take place at Congress in Croke Park next February.