Sunday 17 December 2017

Fixture chaos just can't go on, insists Collins

Cratloe boss confident Banner clubs are ready for change in wake of their 24-hour heroic double

Cratloe’s Podge Collins gives Ballinacourty’s David Collins the slip on Sunday
Cratloe’s Podge Collins gives Ballinacourty’s David Collins the slip on Sunday
Collins is one of Cratloe’s many dual stars who played a part in Clare’s All-Ireland victory earlier this year

When you win your first senior county title for your club, sitting down that very evening in your manager's house to watch opponents you'll be facing the next day is not the most conventional of celebrations.

But that's what many of the young Cratloe footballers did just hours after claiming the club's first Clare SFC title with a three-point win over Doonbeg on Saturday afternoon.

A visit to a cryotherapy unit on the Kilrush Road out of Ennis followed by a swim, stretch and meal in the Radisson Hotel just over the county boundary in Limerick prefaced a meeting in the home of Colm Collins, where a DVD of Ballinacourty's Waterford county final win over Stradbally was absorbed ahead of their Munster club semi-final the following day in Cusack Park.

It wasn't quite a Miwadi and biscuits gathering akin to county hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald's gesture when 19 of his squad were invited to his abode during the summer to discuss their Munster championship defeat to Cork.

But with three sons on the Cratloe squad and regular visits made to the Collins homestead anyway, the new Clare football manager laughed that most of his players already knew where the kettle is in the house.

Collins Snr insists a positive attitude helped Cratloe to approach the potential for two games in 24 hours in the right frame of mind – a hurdle they overcame.

"There are two ways of looking at it. Whitegate did it two weeks ago and they had a great display the following day, so you can feed off the good feeling that is generated after winning," he said.

"There was no problem. Everyone went home and things were done right. It's no different to a Sigerson or Fitzgibbon Cup weekend.

"When you have guys who have succeeded at another level, albeit at another code, it's great. There is no lack of confidence. They are very easy to deal with, they are very professional; it makes the coach's job very easy."

But the wider issue as to why a club should be forced to meet such a schedule is topical as the GAA prepares to receive the second part of the Football Review Committee's findings, a section devoted to fixtures and competition structures.

Among the proposals expected to be included are tighter guidelines for when club fixtures are to be played.

The onus was on Clare County Board, regardless of the year their hurling teams had, to have their champions ready for the Munster championship.

With Ballinacourty unwilling to defer the game for a week, the semi-final had to go ahead on Sunday according to the rules and Collins said he accepts that.

PITY

"Once the fixture is made it is up to the other club to facilitate you. Ballinacourty weren't for changing so that was it. It's a pity, it would have been nice to have another week," he said.

But he saw the problems a long way off and his club had appealed for two hurling and two football championship games to be played prior to the summer to ease the potential for congestion.

"We made a savage mistake last year in Clare and had to play two hard championship games in four days. We lost the second one to Kilmurry. When the new fixtures plan went out we were one of the clubs that said 'this is wrong, we need to re-evaluate," he said.

"At the time we wanted to play two hurling and two football fixtures at the start of the summer so you were almost at the quarter-final stage by the end of the summer and it would give a dual club a decent opportunity to compete at both. All the clubs turned it down.

"Then what we said would happen, did happen. The Clare U-21s got to the All-Ireland final, while our calculations at the time were that the Clare seniors would get to an All-Ireland semi-final at least."

Now he detects a mood for change. "The fixture chaos has impacted on more clubs than us. Clubs tend to vote on things that affect them rather than sometimes looking at the bigger picture. Now that it has impacted on clubs there will be changes next year and it will be for the good of Clare GAA."

Collins reiterates his belief that Clare should have dual inter-county players next season and talks with Fitzgerald on the subject have already taken place.

"Davy is a great Clare man and hopefully we can come to some arrangement where we can use some of the hurlers. I would envisage that there will be some dual players."

Eight of Clare's All-Ireland winning hurlers – Collins' sons Podge and Sean, Conor McGrath, Conor Ryan, Liam Markham, Brendan Bugler, Fergal Lynch and Cathal McInerney – are part of the Cratloe team that will face Colm Cooper's Dr Crokes in the Munster final.

Podge Collins, who was man of the match in last Saturday's county final, says that he has not made any decision yet about a dual future and stressed he will not do so until Cratloe's season has finished.

But the All Star admitted that "it's definitely a talking point at the dinner table at the moment."

Irish Independent

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