Thursday 19 September 2019

Colm Parkinson: Club players need to form own union

Tommy Connors of Stradbally reacts after their defeat to Nemo Rangers on Saturday, less than 24 hours after their Waterford county final victory
Tommy Connors of Stradbally reacts after their defeat to Nemo Rangers on Saturday, less than 24 hours after their Waterford county final victory

Colm Parkinson

FAI chief executive John Delaney once famously described the League of Ireland as a "difficult child for the organisation". Unfortunately, the difficult child for the GAA seems to be the club championship.

I wrote here two weeks ago about Laois and Dublin's farcical club football championships. Well, they're not alone.

Last Friday, Stradbally beat Ballinacourty to win the Waterford county football title. The following day, less than 24 hours later, they had to face the might of Nemo Rangers in the Munster club championship. They were beaten by 11 points.

In Kerry, the county board nominated county finalists Legion to face Nemo because they couldn't finish their championship in time.

Kerins O'Rahillys manager Barry O'Shea was on the show on Monday night and spoke about the difficulties he faced motivating his players throughout the summer when they had no football.

Kerry manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice called off club fixtures in order to prepare his team, something that happens in a lot of counties.

To be fair, I have sympathy for inter-county managers who don't want to release their players.

They prepare to such a high level now that sending them back to more amateur club set-ups, some junior, for a few weeks during their preparation isn't ideal.

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The risk of injury and lack of protection from weaker club referees is also a big factor. It's very simple: inter-county and club football, and the crossover of players, doesn't mix and it's a fixtures nightmare. So what's the solution? Well, there are two options.

(1) Players cannot play both inter-county and club football.

This would allow an uninterrupted club championship which could run alongside the inter-county one during the summer. Club and inter-county players would know exactly when their games are and county boards could revamp club structures to include more games.

(2) Shorten the inter-county season. The inter-county season dominates the landscape of the GAA. It runs for nine months of the year, and with managers so reluctant to release players to club duty, club players suffer.

Any overhaul of the inter-county season must include shortening it to five or six months, leaving the rest for uninterrupted club action. The GPA's proposal shortens it to circa seven months, a token gesture. They also pack more games into that time-frame leaving no realistic opportunity for club games.

It's time for the difficult children of the GAA to stand up and make a nuisance of themselves. Surely the club players' union (CPU) isn't far away?

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