Thursday 14 December 2017

Colm Parkinson: Strike threat required to address club fixture debacle

Fermanagh will play in Division 3A of the national league next year
Fermanagh will play in Division 3A of the national league next year

Colm Parkinson

Colm Keys reported yesterday that the 2017 Allianz football and hurling league finals look set to be played two weeks earlier with a month-long period largely free of inter-county fixtures being created between April and May.

I can see what the GAA is trying to do here in creating some extra playing time for clubs but it's not practical. All powerful inter-county managers will not want to release players back to their club at such an important point in the season.

Preparation is so scientific nowadays it's risky to allow players back to often amateur club set-ups.

Also it's effectively splitting the inter-county season into two separate seasons where players will have to contend with two pre-seasons. Based on this year's draws, Kerry would finish their league in early April, as proposed, but wouldn't be out in the championship until June 12 - ten weeks without a game.

Galway don't play in the championship until June 18 so they will have an 11-week lay-off after the proposed end of the league.

The situation is already bad enough as it is without giving inter-county players longer lay-offs. It seems to me like the people making these decisions are ticking boxes and have absolutely no understanding about what it's like to play both club and inter-county football or hurling.

The solution here, and I'm getting tired of saying this, is to shorten the inter-county season to six months instead of nine and play no club championship games until the inter-county season is over. Club players will know when their championship starts and can play club league during the inter-county season minus their county players.

It is worrying that a small change to the inter-county season - the proposal to bring the All-Ireland finals forward two weeks - was rejected at Congress.

I'm not sure what chance shortening the season to six months will have without an intervention by inter-county players. Threatening a strike is a drastic action but this is a drastic situation which seems to have no solution under current GAA protocols.

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