Thursday 30 March 2017

Butler: We are in a sorry mess and we must tackle it

"County games are magnificent but the price we’re charging is unsustainable.” said Butler. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Paudie Butler has called on the GAA's hierarchy to make "urgent changes" to inter-county fixtures and stop "sacrificing" club players.

The former national director of hurling feels the GAA have moved away from the core values which underpin its foundations and made a passionate plea to get back to basics and satisfy the needs of the majority.

He cited rugby's radical overhaul of their calendar as a model which the GAA could learn from and fears that if substantial fixture alterations are not made within two years, the damage could be irreversible.

"The club player is what the GAA was based on from the start. We have moved away from that and it's time to recognise it and move back. County games are magnificent but the price we're charging is unsustainable," said Butler.

"We can't go another two years sacrificing our club players, that's how urgent it is. We have to honour the GAA's core values of equality and fairness. Tell the club players when they're playing so that they can have a life, have their wedding, have their holidays etc.

Crippling

"Rugby have their club season, then they have their break for the Six Nations, breaks for the autumn internationals and they fixed it. We have internal problems with hurling and football with young players playing out of their age group crippling a fixture list.

"The whole club will not play because a 17-year-old who's already on six teams is holding up the senior championship, and he's a sub on the county minors and no-one can play until he's finished. That's abuse of a lot of genuine people, it's wrong."

The Drom-Inch native believes power has drifted towards inter-county managers, who are calling the shots, and encourages officials to take it back while suggesting that fixture changes should be made across the board.

"We cannot fly on our own, one county doing one thing and another doing something else. We cannot have inter-county managers saying willy nilly 'no more matches this year', that's not us. That's one person going against all the values we hold.

"We haven't been disciplined, we've let this happen and it's crept up on us. Now we're in a fairly sorry mess with it and we need to tackle it. And I think we will. There's enough goodwill there to do it," he said.

"It's not impossible, we don't have millions of inter-county games but they're stretched out so far. We have fierce respect for our county players but it's imbalanced with the lack of respect for our club players."

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