Monday 20 January 2020

Proposed association for club players aims to address fixtures

Monaghan selector Declan Brennan Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Monaghan selector Declan Brennan Picture: Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The latest attempt to establish a Club Players Association is underway through former Monaghan football selector Declan Brennan, who has said he is acting out of concern for the wellbeing of players.

Brennan said he has been inundated with support for his movement which he feels - on the back of contact made with him in recent days since he made his intentions known - can be up and running within three weeks.

Brennan says he has had over 10,000 messages of support in recent days.

He wants club players to be provided with a voice and have a "rallying point" so that issues surrounding fixtures can be addressed for once and for all.

Brennan, who was involved with GAA in DCU and was with them when they won the Sigerson Cup in 2006 and has managed Clontibret to four Monaghan titles, wants to facilitate a meeting between affected players to find common ground.

"I think what most players - and remember inter-county players are club players too - want is a proper closed season where they can get the proper rest and plan their lives better," he said.

"There's no doubt, players want to see the inter-county season condensed. I don't have a mandate to speak on anyone's behalf and I'm just trying to get this up and running.

"But it will happen. We're not looking for something like the Gaelic Players Association. We're not looking for money from the GAA. We're not trying to build anything for the future. The GPA has done great work but has become immersed in the GAA now.

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"We just want to pull people together, gather views and make those views strongly known. It's not a long-term thing. Something has to happen within months."

One of the things he says is coming across in communication that he has had is a desire for a condensing of the inter-county season and a removal of pre-season provincial competitions.

Moves to establish club players' associations, or something similar, have been floated before. In 2012, after the Donegal championship was condensed into a four-week blitz after the All-Ireland final triumph, Dr Austin O'Kennedy from the Four Masters club - the Donegal team doctor when they won the All-Ireland 20 years earlier - wanted a charter of rights for club players to be established so that something like that wouldn't happen again.

A club players' forum was also established online two years ago to offer a voice, while former Down All-Star Conor Deegan contemplated setting up a club players' group earlier this year.

Four years ago former Cork manager Derek Kavanagh drove a motion through his county convention calling for the All-Ireland final to be played a week earlier, but that was lost at Congress in Derry.

Brennan, who runs a sports clinic in Monaghan, said he had no "agenda" in trying to get a club movement going.

"I'm not in this for myself. I'm just concerned at the way it has been going and I'm trying to facilitate it so it will happen. I've been a giver in the association all my life. But some people contacted me and asked me to get involved.

"Anyone who knows me knows that I'd be in this for the right reasons. I think we can all see what is happening. I've had so much correspondence from really high-profile players, some of them All-Ireland winners and All-Stars.

"Nor would I blame any GAA officials for this. The GAA president Aogan O Fearghail made the clubs the focal point of his presidency but he hasn't been able to make any progress.

"He's been meeting a brick wall. There's just to much red tape out there," he said.

At Congress earlier this year motions to scrap replays up to but not including All-Ireland semi-finals and bringing the All-Ireland football final forward by two weeks to provide more time for the completion of club championships were narrowly beaten.

Brennan fears that in years to come the GAA could face compensation claims similar to Army deafness cases if fixture chaos is not addressed.

"That the Dublin and Mayo players had to get back out on the field seven days after an All-Ireland final like they played is just too much," he said.

He claims that too many GAA officials don't fully realise the scale of the problems that club players face, and that's why motions like those two earlier this year were turned down.

Over the weekend Donegal club Burt won their county intermediate championship after extra-time but then had to play an Ulster intermediate championship match within 24 hours, which they lost.

What is increasingly noticeable is how much later the majority of club finals are being played as club fixtures are being pushed further out.

By the end of September, if the Kilkenny final is excluded, only the Down senior football final had been played, but that can't all be attributed to the inter-county fixture programme.

Irish Independent

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