It looked like the perfect solution. A designated club window until September and then the county scene could take over.
But, right from the start, I felt it was the wrong way round. I thought it would be better for the All-Ireland championships to proceed in August on a knockout basis and counties could then run their championships later in the year. However, I can see that there is a certain logic to the county scene starting later as crowds may be allowed by then.
And money makes the world go round - even if last week's Government grant helps to take the really bad sting out of the year.
No other organisation has performed as well as the GAA during this public health crisis in looking after people in their communities, so there should be no issue with the money that will come to the Association from the Government. As always, it brought the best out of GAA volunteers who looked after the old, the sick and those needing a friendly face or a chat. Everyone who is part of this unique body should be proud of themselves.
A united front was maintained in that aspect at least, because some serious differences of opinion have arisen in other areas.
For me, it was the whole issue of getting back training and playing. There is no knowing who was right or wrong in that regard, but I still maintain we could have been back sooner, especially with underage activity.
Anyway, and even allowing for the fact that the new season could have worked in reverse in terms of the club and county windows, I still thought that in general it was a great idea. Here at least we had a designated club season, with no county training allowed until September. What could go wrong?
Well, as it turns out, quite a lot in fact. Almost immediately, county teams all over the country started training, even without insurance cover. And some counties decided to shoehorn their championships into narrow time-frames to get them concluded in order to facilitate their county teams. All you have to do is read the new club championship structures in various counties to see that the philosophy is all wrong.
There are examples where counties stuck to the guidelines and told their own county management groups in both football and hurling that this is the rule and there is no debate. It appears that Derry and Offaly are two examples of that, while at least one other county in Ulster is not allowing clubs to have almost any access to their own players. It has even been rumoured that one county is already looking for challenge matches. One where lads turn up at a pitch and have a kick-around. Just as long as nobody gets hurt.
This has demonstrated two things very clearly to me. Firstly, there is an absence of moral fibre in the executives of very many county boards who profess allegiance to the central authority of the GAA but do exactly the opposite. The chairperson is the leader of a county board. The buck stops with them. If they say that their county is implementing Croke Park's guidelines in full then there is no further debate. Sadly, many just roll over and allow county managements to dictate what is going to happen. The tail is wagging the dog in an even greater way than before the lockdown.
If county managers wanted to bring in their players once a week to monitor fitness and injuries, and so on, I don't think anyone would have a problem with that. Why not designate one day a week for this across every county?
However, the reality is that there are counties where players will not be training with their clubs much, if at all, during the so-called club window. This is flying in the face of what the GAA has asked for. What is happening here is that county board officials are giving not a back-handed insult to their own clubs but a full-frontal one.
Secondly, it does say something too about the calibre of person who plays county football or hurling if they will not stand up for their clubs. What they are saying in effect is that their club does not matter. Or is it that players do not have the backbone to stand up at a team meeting and let management know, in a non-confrontational way, that they are staying with their club until they are out of the championship. Either way, players who lack courage in times of peace certainly won't have it in time of war.
Seán Boylan, in the past, and Brian Cody, at present, are two managers who trusted their players. Their view was that players went back to their clubs not as tourists but to provide inspiration. They were expected to lead the training and to be the best players for their club in league and championship matches. If they were not up to that, and also to keeping themselves in the best of shape, then they were not county men. There was no need for micro-management. If Boylan thought a player was not cutting the mustard at squad sessions then he was told to go back to his club for an extended period. We joked that he might as well be sent to Coventry . . . They never came back.
Croke Park can hardly be blamed for this mess. The leadership set out their stall and provided the windows, which seemed fair and reasonable, withdrew insurance for county teams and told county boards to do what they are supposed to do - look after their clubs. How many clubs will have their entire year decided in a rush? Some are looking at playing three or four championship matches in a fortnight, or less in some cases.
Of course, Croke Park officials could call in chairpersons and tell them to do their job but there must be sanctions if that is to work. The obvious one is that counties not abiding by the rules could lose all their home league matches. The problem with that is the vast majority would all be playing away from home. The only other penalty would be to hold on to all monies due to counties from grants and so on. That would be the real sting in the tail.
This was also an ideal opportunity for the GPA to call on all members to abide by the rules. Instead the best they could do was to look for the insurance to be reinstated earlier so counties could officially resume before the September date. And they wonder why most club players and officials have either little or no time for the GPA, and that is putting it very mildly. This is a fantastic chance for the Club Players' Association to take a stance. Surely they realise that most counties are back training and at the expense of clubs. This is pushing an open door. What clubs always wanted was handed to them in a time of crisis but it is still being taken away.
This was a time for reflection and change. Many of us had hoped that lessons could have been learned during this period of inaction. That definite seasons for everyone was attainable, not at the cost of the county game but merely a fair system for all. It was a mirage in the desert. It shimmered and disappeared and perhaps the worst of all scenarios will now unfold with county teams continuing to train for the whole winter as part of the build-up for next year.
As Karl Marx wrote, history repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce. I'm not quite sure which phase of GAA history we are in.
Sunday Indo Sport