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Roche's Point: New calendar year 'tradition' is the best way forward


Dean Rock, Dublin

Dean Rock, Dublin

Dean Rock, Dublin

DEAN ROCK landed another eight points for the Dubs on Sunday.

 That brought his running O'Byrne Cup tally to 0-28 (0-9 from play) this month, with a fifth match looming against Kildare this Sunday and a further chance to bolster that total.

What makes these stats unusual is not that Rock has suddenly transformed himself into a scoring machine (he has always been prolific for his club, and even as a Sky Blue impact sub in 2013) but rather that he's finally getting his early-season chance with Dublin.

Two years ago, he was caught up with Ballymun's quest for an All-Ireland club title that only ended in painful St Patrick's Day defeat.  Last year, having helped Dublin to Sam, he launched straight into a hectic defence of Ballymun's Dublin SFC title ... they eventually lost in a final replay to St Vincent's and Rock was left with a knee injury that caused him to miss the entirety of Dublin's spring campaign.

For the record, son of Barney has never started a league game for Dublin; the way things are going, that's likely to change next month.

Ger Brennan skippered Vincent's back to the Dublin club summit in the aforementioned two-game epic with Ballymun.  He didn't get to play a single league game with Dublin last year, primarily because he was leading Vin's to All-Ireland glory.

Unlike Rock, Brennan has seen plenty of league action under Jim Gavin (and, before that, Pat Gilroy and Paul Caffrey) so his absence last spring didn't sound the death knell for his summer prospects.

But he had other more pressing problems: injuries stemming from a seemingly endless county/club schedule that mulched into one.  These are recalled elsewhere on these pages; the net result is that as a direct consequence of "over-training" and "chronic fatigue", he endured injuries that ruled him out for all of Dublin's SFC campaign.

Would history have been different if Brennan was minding the centre-back fort against Donegal last August?  Who can tell.  The man himself is certainly not making such idle (and impossible-to-prove) boasts; but his own back story with club and county leaves him well qualified to talk about the GAA's move towards completing all club championships in the calendar year, starting in 2016.

Brennan supports the idea.  Not every player does - quite a few cherish the 'tradition' of marching around Croke Park with their club on March 17.  But, before that, we had the 'tradition' of playing the Railway Cup finals in Croker on Paddy's Day.  

As Brennan remarks, you can either "stay stuck in the past" or you can acknowledge that society moves on.  His own view is that, given the increasing intensity of club football (and hurling), we need to acknowledge the commitment of all those who play it - be they county men also or solely club players.  Those players deserve a "proper break"; and by that he doesn't mean having two months between a Leinster club final in December and an All-Ireland semi-final in February.  You need a mental break too: "Human beings need a sense of start, middle and finish - switch off and then go again."

Last weekend, the work group established to examine the calendar year proposal presented its discussion document to Central Council.  No final decisions will be taken until counties have fully digested the report, but it has made a series of headline recommendations which include playing the All-Ireland club finals at all grades over a single 'club weekend' each December; bringing forward the All-Ireland senior hurling and football finals by one week on a two-year pilot basis; fixing All-Ireland final replays for the Saturday immediately after the drawn game; and having a second period of extra time (five minutes a half) if required for all club championship games.

Squeezing the club season into a calendar year won't be easy and will require compromise from several vested interests.  But is it doable.  More to the point, it would be fairer than the current fixtures system: a status quo that, in spring, punishes counties for the success of their clubs; that treats the ordinary club player with summer disdain; and that asks too much of Dean Rock, Ger Brennan and their ilk.