Saturday 21 October 2017

Clubs hurt in push for big squads

County teams don't require panels of 30, writes Páidí ó Sé

Paidi O Se

In last week's column, I touched on the issue of the current standard of club football in Kerry and one of the factors that's contributing to its decline is that for long periods of the summer the clubs have no access to their inter-county players.

These players make a commitment to their counties but sometimes county managers can be overly demanding in the restrictions they place on their players.

I'm speaking from experience as a former manager who was very protective of my squad members and I sometimes grounded players. It's understandable that managers behave this way because the pressure put on them to succeed is intense. The practice is having a detrimental effect on club football. Club managers often don't know which players are available to them on any given day.

Linked to this is the ever-increasing size of match-day panels. Having 30 players on the panel is crazy and I believe that no squad needs to be bigger than 22. One of the reasons panels have grown is because managers can avoid making hard calls when bringing teams for the big championship games. They don't need to leave anyone who has been involved in training out of the panel for the big occasion.

Modern training methods mean that bodies are needed but the only possible reason for having 30 players in a squad is for training matches. There is no reason why you can't have a panel of 22 and call up seven or eight players from the under 21s or players that are knocking at the door for training matches.

It's ludicrous having 30 players in a match-day squad and handing out treasured Celtic Crosses to them on All-Ireland final day.

Leinster comes under the spotlight today and while Meath are renowned for their ability to come out fighting, today is the day for them to rise from the dead.

They lost a series of matches in the league and were relegated to Division 3. They had problems with the manager but they appear to have been put to bed. He has brought in extra people for advice and support in preparing the county for the championship and I believe bringing in one man in particular was a masterstroke. That man is Trevor Giles.

My spies on the ground tell me that training in Meath has been going well and that Trevor Giles has done Trojan work since he was brought on board. He has made a real difference in a short period of time when there was pressure on Meath.

Meath are pitted against a Kildare team who are on many people's shortlists for the All-Ireland. Kildare must be one of the most costly teams in the country to prepare. The county board have spared no expense in getting them mentally and physically ready for the fray but I think Meath will be up for the challenge today.

Meath's reputation has been damaged by their relegation and by washing their linen in public. They will be out to prove a point against Kildare and show there's life left in them so I'm giving Meath a very good fighting chance today. Most pundits are backing Kildare but they won't get it all their own way so I'm sticking my neck out and going for Meath.

Wexford have given Dublin a very good run for their money in the last few years. They have some quality players like Redmond Barry and Derek Lyng and they play a good, honest brand of football. Dublin seem to be everybody's favourites to retain their All-Ireland title and they should win today.

Going back to the point I was making earlier, Dublin are a team that use an extended panel to what they might consider great effect. They use a lot of in-house games to keep them ticking over between matches. This also helps to keep their tactics inside the camp which is an advantage of this system. However, the major disadvantage is that they don't get exposed to other styles of football and other teams while they are training. You learn more from playing teams from other counties than you do from playing matches against your own players.

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