School should be out for inter-county fare
Donegal fielding an U-21 team in the Dr McKenna Cup; Dublin footballers heading into the O'Byrne Cup while the All-Ireland-winning squad are on holidays; All-Ireland hurling champions, Tipperary missing the Munster League altogether; third-level college teams packing the programme in Connacht, Ulster and Munster ... it's doesn't exactly make for an auspicious start to the GAA's pre-season programme next weekend.
Still, after the long break without inter-county action, the public will respond in quite large numbers as they begin checking on their teams, specifically what new talent is emerging.
Donegal's decision to use the U-21 panel, managed by Declan Bonner, rather than the senior squad, takes away from the McKenna Cup but then with several players on duty with college sides and Rory Gallagher (left) keen to give the more experienced players a longer break, the logic is somewhat understandable.
It's certainly easier to figure out than the continued policy in Ulster, Connacht and Leinster of allowing third-level colleges into pre-season competitions.
No fewer than 11 college teams will be in action in the three provinces next weekend.
It's good preparation for the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup competitions but since when did that become the function of the inter-county game?
It was a bad idea from the start and remains so now.