Wednesday 23 August 2017

Players are the big losers as club versus county debate rears it head

Sean Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile
Sean Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Verney

The club versus county debate reared its ugly head again over the weekend, when a ridiculous scenario arose which required Offaly hurling captain Sean Ryan and another Faithful player to choose between the two.

With a round of the junior football championship scheduled for the weekend before Offaly's All-Ireland SHC Qualifier tie, Ryan and team-mate Sean Gardiner were keen to feature for their clubs, but were left stuck between a rock and a hard place.

The controversy centred around the South Offaly clash between Lusmagh and Birr, but with county hurling training fixed at the same time last Friday night, the pair were forced to choose between representing club or county.

Birr officials were aware of the issue when the fixture was first timetabled and vigorously sought for postponement, but to no avail. Technically, with eight days to go before the Qualifier game with Waterford the pair were 'free' to play for their clubs - six days is the minimum which they must be free from club games before an inter-county championship game.

Both were entitled to participate in this do-or-die game and it's understood that an agreement was attempted with hurling boss Kevin Ryan. However, no middle ground was reached and the no-win situation was left with the players.

Awkward

With their places in the Offaly starting 15 for the Déise clash on the line, both Ryan and Gardiner attended county training in what was likely to have been a particularly difficult experience for former dual star Ryan.

The 30-year-old spent six years foraging for the Faithful footballers and began his inter-county career with the big ball, while his father John also manages the Birr side and it was a needlessly awkward position for him to be put in.

After dedicating 12 years to his county, the least Ryan deserved was to not have his inter-county place put in jeopardy because of a fixture clash which was completely out of his hands, and making him decide between representing his club and his county was unfair.

Such scenarios arise in clubs, particularly dual clubs, in every county, and that has been the case for years, but it doesn't make it right. It's time to stop to madness. When is the dictatorship and the GAA's ownership of players going to come to an end?

Too often managers dictate the terms of engagement to their players and move them around like chess pieces, telling what they can and cannot do. The player is always the one that loses out and this has to stop. Now.

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Irish Independent

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