Thursday 18 January 2018

Off The Ball: Club players still getting raw deal

Cahir Healy, left, and David Seale celebrate after Portlaoise complete a 20-hour double with victories over Emo and Palatine
Cahir Healy, left, and David Seale celebrate after Portlaoise complete a 20-hour double with victories over Emo and Palatine

Colm Parkinson

Inter-county championship structures are a hot topic within the GAA and have been for a good few years now.

One thing that always crops up with texters when we discuss it on the show, and people I interact with on Twitter, is the club player.

Clubs want to be taken into consideration when deciding on a new championship format.

The inter-county season obviously has a massive impact on club action around the country. However, clubs need to take a look at their own county boards to often see where the real problem lies.

The Dublin county championship is a shocking insult to club players in the county. It is run off as a straight knockout with the first round played early in the year and the second when Dublin are knocked out of the championship. Under this structure, many club players are out of the senior championship in May, before the good weather even starts. Dublin are usually involved in the inter-county championship into September so the club championship only resumes when the summer is over and is played off every weekend in a rushed fashion so the winners can play in the Leinster Club Championship.

Guaranteeing club players only one championship game is a horrible treatment and the Dublin county board should not be allowed to get away with it.

Shocking treatment of club players isn't unique to the Dublin County Board, however. My own county Laois had more than enough time to finish their championship but instead treated their county champions, Portlaoise, horribly.

The Laois county final wasn't played until October 18 when Portlaoise drew with Emo. The replay was fixed for the following Saturday because the winners were required to fulfil a Leinster club fixture the next day against the Carlow champions, Palatine.

Laois were knocked out of the inter-county qualifiers in embarrassing fashion by Antrim in Portlaoise. That game took place on June 20.

The Laois County Board had 17 weekends to play with, from June 20 until the county final on October 18. Despite this, a replay in the final resulted in Portlaoise players playing two championship games in 24 hours. Portlaoise only needed to play five rounds to reach the final. Emo lost their first game and needed six rounds to reach the final.

Croke Park need to investigate the governance of some county boards and streamline club structures nationwide. It's easy to pay lip service about the plight of club players under new championship structures - you'd almost think they're being well treated now!

Irish Independent

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