Thursday 23 May 2019

Eugene McGee: Clubs the victims in farcical fixture list

The GAA world and its mother know by now that there are huge disparities in the scheduling of the All-Ireland championship and a glance through the new GAA fixtures diary turns up many examples.

The problem, of course, is not the fault of fixtures committees, but can be blamed on our former political masters who hundreds of years ago decided to divide up Ireland in very uneven and geographically stupid sections – 32 counties and four unequal provinces.

They have left us with provinces containing 12, nine, six and five counties, which means GAA fixtures have been totally lopsided since the organisation was founded in 1884.

The fixture list for the Kerry football team in 2013 is a good example.

If we assume Kerry reach the All-Ireland final this year, and it IS only an assumption, they will play one game in May, June, July, two in August and one in September, which represents six championship games spread over five months.

On the other hand, were Armagh or Cavan to advance to the final they would play one game in May, two in June, one in July, two in August and one in September leaving us with seven games over the same period as Kerry and with more demanding fixtures.

In Leinster, Carlow or Westmeath would have to play seven games to reach the All-Ireland final, with one game in May, two in June, one in July, two in August and one in September.

These games all refer to the All-Ireland championship proper and do not include the qualifiers, which, incidentally, are being arranged this year to bring defeated teams earlier into the system, something which is very desirable from the point of view of arranging club fixtures.

These convoluted fixture programmes have several peculiarities that the GAA can ill afford. The fact that many counties may only play one game in a month at the height of the summer season is ludicrous. Considering the high levels of fitness of all county teams nowadays, they could easily play games every two weeks without any bother.

One of the most interesting aspects of the present system is that, while Connacht only have five teams once the elimination of London and New York has been completed in early May, the first round proper this year between Mayo and Galway will be played on May 19 in Pearse Stadium. However, the All-Ireland final will not take place until 18 weeks later on September 22, during which time they would only have to play four games should either go through to the decider. This would leave them with a minimum of two weeks (Connacht final to All-Ireland quarter-finals) up to a maximum of five weeks (Connacht semi-final to Connacht final) between games.

The most serious aspect of all this is that it shows how next to impossible it is to organise a proper club championship fixture list.

County team managers have tended not to allow local club games involving county players to take place during these long gaps in the various provinces, leaving club players totally frustrated.

The Football Review Committee will be sending a motion to GAA Congress requesting that managers should not be allowed to cancel club games in this manner and it will be interesting to see if this is carried.

But the basic problem is that the provinces are uneven in numbers leading to inequitable fixture-making and, of course, inequitable competitions among the four provinces.

A huge number of football followers and players would like to this system change to a fairer method.

Paul McGinley a shoo-in for Dublin job after Gavin

I presume Paul McGinley will be the next team manager of either the Dublin or Donegal football team. After he has completed his stint as Ryder Cup captain, he must be a shoo-in for one of these jobs.

Paul more or less told us that it was Gaelic football with Ballyboden St Enda's that swung it when his selection came up trumps last week.

On top of that, he has credited the one and only Jim McGuinness as a key figure in his campaign.

Donegal, Glasgow Celtic and now the prestigious Ryder Cup – is there no limit to this man's talents?

McGinley could easily slip into the Dublin manager role whenever current boss Jim Gavin retires from that job and who knows – he and McGuinness might end up standing on the sidelines as opponents in All-Ireland finals in a few years time.

All those broken down Gaelic footballers who play golf nowadays would be delighted.

Mullahoran tradition shines out like a beacon for club game

When one's involvement with football relates mainly to inter-county activities, it is important to return regularly to the real source of the GAA, the club.

Last Friday, I had the honour of presenting Cavan championship and league medals at the Mullahoran club dinner and, once again, it brought home to me where the heart of the GAA lies.

Mullahoran is not just any GAA club, of course – it has a magical resonance around Ireland because of the famous players from the club who helped Cavan to All-Ireland glory long, long ago.

The name that has always shone out in this regard is the late Phil 'The Gunner' Brady, a legendary figure in Cavan, Ulster and beyond, who won All-Irelands in 1947, '48 and '52.

He was regarded as a genuinely sporting hard man on teams made up mainly of football stylists. Sadly, he died at the young age of 54, but many of his nephews wear the Mullahoran jersey with distinction today and every one of name is referred to as 'The Gunner,' including Paul, who is also the world and Irish handball champion.

Tradition is often a hindrance in GAA life, but, in this case, it shines out like a beacon for a rural club like Mullahoran.

Irish Independent

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