Every year after the dust settles and the All-Ireland has been won, the attention quickly turns to the Club game. Local pride, playing with family and friends, the parish team are all at the core of club football, but unfortunately our game’s biggest prize is flawed.
There are lots of reasons, out of the GAA’s control, that don’t allow the club model to function as well as the county one. I will look into some of the main reasons why the Andy Merrigan cup is over shadowed by Sam MaGuire.
1. Staggered championships
The County Championships are all staggered, depending on when your county exits the race for Sam. The Louth championship could start in early June whilst the Dublin equivalent won’t begin until late September. With no fixed start date but a fixed final date it can lead to too many games in short spaces. When Donegal won the 2012 All-Ireland their club championship was ran off in five weeks, champions St. Eunan’s played eight games in that period. ‘‘I remember going to games on Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s in the middle of November’’ said Mark Boyle of Ardra.
2. Bad Conditions
The club championships are usually played over the winter months, especially the provincial series’. By playing these games on soft pitches and in desperately cold conditions players don’t get to express themselves as they would do over the summer. Due to the conditions games are much slower and more players get injured. Leg injuries are ripe in the Provincial Club Championships.
3. External Commitments
Should you be lucky enough to prevail in your county and have county players or students on your team, it is nearly a burden. County players are wrecked after a tough seven months, at least, and both the colleges and schools are just beginning their campaigns. Also, the selection to play with your province and country are problems as both the Railway cup and the Cormac McAnallen cup squads are being finalised.
A professional Rugby player and/or a professional soccer player gets six weeks off at the end of a season, this time is used to recover and allow the body to relax after a tough season. The most a club player gets due to one commitment or another is, at the very most, three weeks. Training for county and clubs starts the first Tuesday in January. Harry Dawson of Skerries Harps says that he feels mentally and physically wrecked all the time ‘’I find it hard to go training and all I want to do is sleep’’.
I don’t know whether its a coincidence or a fact, but if you look at the counties and provinces winning the All-Ireland’s you’ll very quickly see that the club football in those counties is struggling and vice versa.
The All-Ireland club championship is the pinnacle of every single player’s career but due to the above reasons we are endangering of ruining our game. The GAA need to reform their fixtures and get a more coherent agenda put in place.
I have taken the first step by giving GAA president nominee Aogan Farrell a copy of this article.