Saturday 16 December 2017

County bosses' interference causing club players to quit game -- Connacht chief

John Prenty, Secretary of the Connacht Council, during the draw for the 2013 GAA Senior Football and Hurling Championships
John Prenty, Secretary of the Connacht Council, during the draw for the 2013 GAA Senior Football and Hurling Championships
Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

SOME inter-county managers have far too much power and influence on club fixtures and are dictating that club players start and finish their season up to their ankles in muck.

That's the verdict of Connacht secretary John Prenty, who says club players are now "in hock to county teams." He has described the problems of club players in the starkest possible terms in his annual report, which will be delivered to Connacht Convention on Thursday night.

"All we can guarantee (club players) is that they will start the season up to their ankles in muck and finish it up to their ankles in muck. The middle is a lottery, and we wonder why players drop out," Prenty says.

"In reality our clubs are in hock to our county teams and our counties are unwilling or unable to take on our county team managers, some of whom are deciding the format and the scheduling of our club competitions."

He is refering to the Football Review Committee's online survey, which found that 40pc of respondents rated adult fixtures at club level as 'poor' or 'very poor.'

Of players who responded, that statistic was even higher (52pc) and particularly alarming was that 60pc who responded said their club fixtures were not adhered to, with 64pc saying that the club season was far too long and drawn out.

Prenty also linked the chopping and changing of club fixtures with the recent ERSI report on drop-out rates, which had found that over 50pc of 16+ players tend to drop out of Gaelic games within the following three to four years.

He said that, while most counties have appointed fixtures planners to monitor and review schedules, they are being ignored.

"The reality is that, in the main, fixture makers ignore the work of our fixture planners," he said, describing the FRC findings as "frightening and undeniable."

Prenty does not have a problem with the FRC's recommendations to tweak the provincial boundaries, which include the suggestion of giving the losers of Ulster and Leinster's SFC preliminary round a back-door entry into Connacht.

"I agree with the broad thrust of the (FRC) recommendation but see a flaw in trying to tie league and championships together for the preliminary rounds," Prenty says.

"Why not let Ulster and Leinster organise their own draw, with the losers getting their chance in Munster and Connacht?"

He also believes that the new black card disciplinary system will improve Gaelic football. "As with every other change in rule, when the whingeing has died down, we will just get on with it," he predicts.

There is a push within Connacht to change the format of their minor football championship for 2015. Galway have submitted a motion that they bring in a 'back-door', while Sligo have submitted a motion that beaten minor finalists would get a bye to the semis in the following year while a round-robin would decide the other last three.

Prenty warned that a round-robin system would have to be finished by the end of April and would affect minor league and colleges fixtures.

Irish Independent

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