Club players being 'shafted' - former Down star Conor Deegan
Former Down All-Ireland winner Conor Deegan has painted a gloomy picture of life as a club manager and says club players are being "shafted".
Deegan has taken over the reins in his native Downpatrick having spent time in charge of Ballyboden St Enda's and Kilmacud Crokes in Dublin too.
The 1991 and 1994 All-Ireland winner said he was astounded to hear recently that Downpatrick would have no game until April 8 and would then have six "shoehorned in" in just less than three weeks. He argues that county managers retain far too great a hold on their players for too long into the season and that has to loosen.
He also remains somewhat sceptical about what the proposed changes in the GAA's burnout document can achieve if passed at Congress next month.
"We'll have to wait and see. Will it happen to generate more space for the club player or will it generate more space for the county to do more. Clubs are being shown scant regard," he said, adding that the club has moved to the bottom of the GAA's food chain. "I love county football, I want my county to do well but the focus has to change.
"Everything is at the behest of the county set-ups. I get it, I understand it. But there has to come a point where clubs have to get more centre stage.
"It all comes back, to money, to Croke Park, back to the counties and the clubs are being shafted. And we're losing players."
Deegan says that the greatest problem a club manager faces is actually finding out where his players are. "The problem you have is that you don't get a handle on where your players are. They're with colleges, U-21s, minors, seniors. I'm not trying to complain about it. I'd just like something done about it," he said.
"It's great for a club like ours to have that exposure to other teams but if you don't see them the club has no benefit.
"Our entire association has been built on the goodwill and the help and industry of a lot of human beings over a long period of time. What we currently have is a small minority now dictating what is happening in the country. Club players are being shafted.
"We're struggling with calendars because of the amount of training that counties are doing. The reality is the ratio of training to games is absolutely ridiculous. If it's still 13 to 1 as it was, that's shocking.
"If players were allowed to play more club football, if club football in each county became more competitive, it would have the knock-on effect that the county is slightly more competitive and players are playing better. They (inter-county managers) don't want players playing for their clubs.
"I'm not a maverick, I'm not a rebel. But I know that until players at club level and the clubs stand up and say, 'We can't accept this any longer', it will never change."
Deegan acknowledged that Dublin manager Jim Gavin does release players back to clubs who will not be involved on match days and he also referenced Kilkenny club hurlers "playing away" with their clubs during the championship season.
Meanwhwile, Down manager Eamonn Burns has been handed a major boost after it was confirmed that star forward Benny Coulter returned to training last week.