Sport Gaelic Football

Sunday 17 December 2017

Kavanagh – the rebel with a 'club player' cause

Kavanagh: Congress proposal
Kavanagh: Congress proposal
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The former Cork footballer behind the motion to have the dates of the All-Ireland finals brought forward to allow more time for club championships to be completed wants to trigger a "proper debate" within the association about the plight of the club footballers.

Derek Kavanagh, who quit inter-county football due to a troublesome hip after Cork's 2010 All-Ireland success, has been prompted by his experiences as a coach of his club side Nemo Rangers last year.

At 32, Kavanagh is recovering from hip replacement surgery, which he underwent last week. It was an operation, he was told just a few years ago, that he would probably only have to experience in his 40s.

But he'll be listening intently to developments from GAA Congress in Derry where his motion, courtesy of Nemo Rangers, will be moved by Cork to have the All-Ireland football final played on the second Sunday in September, with the hurling final two weeks earlier.

Kavanagh's motion got through convention in Cork, despite opposition from many powerful figures, who highlighted the promotional aspect for the GAA to have the finals in September.

"It got overwhelming support from club delegates, because they understand the situation," Kavanagh said. "At Congress, there will be county board delegates and I accept it probably will be beaten.

"But it was as much the spirit of the motion that I wanted discussed. I know there are many like-minded people out there who know where I am coming from on this."

Kavanagh's concerns were raised by his experience with Nemo, which started well in the early part of the season, but deteriorated to the point one night in June when they had just three players on the field for training.

He outlined how many were tied up with county teams, but others had just abandoned the cause because of the uncertainty of when their season would actually resume.

"Let's face it, inter-county dominates for six months of the season in most cases and up to nine months in some. Just 2pc of players are holding up the other 98pc," he pointed out.

A Donegal medical doctor, Austin O'Kennedy, hit out last year at the scheduling of the Donegal championship, which was compressed into just over three weeks, and expressed a determination to establish a club players' association with a charter of rights.

Kavanagh believes the "penny will one day drop" with the GAA over the way the senior inter-county season is structured.

"Is it right that Cork can make an All-Ireland quarter-final playing two games, yet other teams have to play four games? Of course it's not," he said.

Kavanagh knows that revenue and promotion is behind the elongation of the season so far into September, but wonders if this is a sufficient enough reason for club players to be held up for so long.

"My fear is that we will lose more players to other sports if this is allowed to continue. Many more just won't stay around and wait during the best months of the year for football."

Irish Independent

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