Colm Keys: 'Figures show changes are giving clubs more time'
Fewer GAA players sought sanctions this year to play in North American championships than in 2017, a Club Fixtures Strategy mid-year report has identified.
A drop of 9pc in sanctions to New York, North America and Canadian divisions was recorded, from 695 down to 631, rebuffing the perception that more players went abroad to play football because of the calendar changes.
By comparison to 2015 there was a 12pc drop, when 719 sanctions were sought.
The report suggests that the numbers travelling with sanctions are just 1pc of the overall playing body.
It also reveals that 29 of the 32 counties benefited "positively" in terms of time from the series of changes that have been made over the last three seasons.
It drew comparison with 2015, the last year before the raft of changes, which included bringing the All-Ireland football and hurling finals forward to the end of August/start of September, bringing the U-21 hurling championship forward, changing age eligibility at minor to U-17, rescheduling U-20 football to run parallel to senior inter-county championships, and the introduction of 'finish on the day' in certain competitions.
Carlow, Clare and Cork are the only counties with less time between their exit from all inter-county championships to the end of October compared to 2015.
Carlow and Clare still had 16 and 12 weeks respectively while Cork had nine because of their involvement in the All-Ireland U-21 hurling final.
It works out at an average of around four weeks extra per year for each county on 2015 as the changes kicked in, 121 extra weeks created overall.
This figure does not include the April moratorium on inter-county fixtures which in theory should give clubs even more time but wasn't observed by every county in 2018.
Recent analysis showed that many county finals were not being played any earlier than last year despite the changes but inter-county players will have been able to spend more time with their clubs, post-championship exit, than before.
Only the replayed Galway football final and the Galway hurling final, which has no provincial deadline to meet, have yet to be played.
Last weekend, however, the chairman of the Club Players Association Micheál Briody suggested club players were worse off because of the changes.
"The new moves in 2018 have been worse for the club player than in previous years," he told RTÉ.
"We've had one of the best summers weather-wise but in the months of May, June, July there have been no meaningful club games played in that period."
The report does express "concern" that there were no games played during this window because of the condensed new hurling championship format.
"While it (added time) paints an encouraging picture, a number of counties had previously been able to play some rounds of championship in the gaps between games in May and June in particular.
"This has not been possible, however, under the new inter-county hurling structure and this is definitely a concern," the report notes.
"Nonetheless, there is, and always has been, an appreciation that it would take some time for the effects of the additional time generated to be felt by clubs.
"Counties are required to examine their existing scheduling, competition structures and get used to the 'new' windows that have been created.
"This will not happen overnight but it is essential that we give counties the time and space to adopt to what is considerable change in a short period of time.