Sunday 26 January 2020

Pat Spillane: 'The Tipp football team had a busier festive period than Liverpool - their schedule was ridiculous'

Tipperary manager David Power watches from the sideline during the 2020 McGrath Cup Group B match between Tipperary and Kerry at Clonmel Sportsfield in Clonmel, Tipperary. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Tipperary manager David Power watches from the sideline during the 2020 McGrath Cup Group B match between Tipperary and Kerry at Clonmel Sportsfield in Clonmel, Tipperary. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Pat Spillane

My article last Sunday on elitism in the GAA struck a chord with the wider sporting community.

Everybody who was in touch agreed with my contention that the inter-county scene has turned into an out-of-control monster.

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Distilling my own thoughts and those I received over the past week, here are 12 reasons why the GAA must act to save itself from self-destruction.

1. One of the country’s form footballers, Cathal McShane, sacrificed his dream of winning an All-Ireland medal with Tyrone in order to play Aussie Rules football.

2. Waterford football manager Benji Whelan announced that eight of last year’s panel has walked away. He had to approach as many as 100 footballers before assembling a squad for this year.

3. Laois boss Eddie Brennan revealed that, although the team reached the last six in the All-Ireland series last year, a sizeable number of hurlers declined his invitation to join the 2020 squad.

4. Before Christmas, I published a list of inter-county players who were opting out in 2020. Well, it’s now estimated that as many as 60 – surely a record – have made themselves unavailable.

Here’s just a random selection of those we won’t be seeing in 2020: Odhrán Mac Niallias (Donegal); Conor Moynagh (Cavan); Sean Quigley (Fermanagh); Diarmuid Murtagh (Roscommon); Peter Cooke (Galway); Donie and Paul Kingston (Laois).

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I would hazard a guess that the majority of those who are taking a break simply want to experience a normal life.

5. The April club-only month is a joke. I expect even more counties will ignore it this year. Even in the limited number of counties where championship matches take place, inter-county training continues.

6. There isn’t another field game in the world where players train so much and play so little. I’m told one county squad met 28 times during the month of November. And there’s more.

The Tipp football squad had a busier new year than Liverpool FC. This was their itinerary as confirmed by manager David Power:

December 30-31: Two-day training camp in Dublin.

January 2: McGrath Cup tie against Cork.

January 3: Training session.

January 5: McGrath Cup tie against Kerry.

7. Team doctors privately admit that the injury lists at inter-county level have now reached crisis level, due primarily to a training overload.

8. The Sigerson Cup began over the weekend – even though the majority of the players involved are also training with their county U-20 squads at the moment. It’s utter madness.

9. This is straight out of the 'believe it or not' manual. Sean Quilter, a student in Tralee CBS, is allowed under the rules to play for the Kerry senior team.

He featured in their McGrath Cup matches against Cork and Tipperary. But he cannot play for the county U-20 side because his school is still involved in the Munster colleges' championship.

10. It is becoming a double-edged sword for clubs to have players on county squads. Ultimately it boils down to who has first call on the player – the club who nurtured him for years or the county.

Of course, it’s the county that wins. It is a classic case of the tail wagging the dog.

11. I used to think that Kerry was the last bastion of amateurism with the majority of senior team club managers not getting paid.

Not any more I’m afraid. Indeed, we now have the farcical situation of clubs paying their own members to manage their teams.

12. I reckon 13 inter-county football managers are getting paid at the moment – which is a relatively low figure.

A bigger issue is that even in counties where the manager is not getting paid, he has assembled a very expensive back-room team, so the county board doesn’t save anything. By the way, this time last year I revealed that one football manager was being paid €100,000.

So how did he get on?

Well, his team didn’t win any championship silverware.

But he’s back at the helm in 2020 with presumably the same package.

The take-home message from all the reaction I received last weekend was that somebody needs to cry halt.

Maybe the next GAA president, who will be elected in a couple of months, might be the man to save us all.

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