Club players suffer over county games

The argument that the GAA fixtures programme is structured in favour of the inter-county game has validity in a lot of counties.

The argument that the GAA fixtures programme is structured in favour of the inter-county game has validity in a lot of counties.

For many GAA players the summer can pass without any meaningful club games. Then in an effort to get championships completed and have teams ready for provincial campaigns numerous games are packed into a short period, writes Nickey Brennan.

Much of the spotlight relating to the difficulties completing club fixtures programmes falls on inter-county team managers, and with some justification.

The decision some weeks ago by Donegal to postpone all club championship games next year until the county’s senior footballers are out of the championship raised eyebrows. In Donegal’s case the decision, while initiated by inter-county team management, was endorsed by the clubs as members of the County Board.

Irrespective of the progress made next year by Donegal the clubs of the county have made their decision and must now live with the consequences

Without doubt many inter-county team managers exert far too much influence on their county’s club fixtures. Donegal’s decision is an extreme example, but in other counties we have seen games postponed for many weeks, even months in some cases.

The biggest offenders tend to be counties who are not regularly on the winners podium. The feeling is that nothing must be left to chance. For many managers that means the less club activity the players get the better.

Some counties run a league programme throughout the entire season. Where such leagues exist they tend to be highly competitive. An unusual feature of many of these leagues is that they are played without inter-county panellists, except for what are known as designated games.

Senior and intermediate club hurlers in Kilkenny must look enviously at their junior and special junior counterparts who enjoy a much more structured and active programme of games.

In Kilkenny the Byrne and Aylward Cup competitions provide some level of competition during the summer but the degree of effort in those games varies from club to club.

By and large club players around the country get a raw deal as clubs have little or no access to their star players for long periods. It is only when the county exits the championship that they reacquaint themselves once again with their colleagues.

Clubs get ‘gate’

It is worth noting also that where clubs retain ‘the gate’ from their games, cramming fixtures into a short period does little to help them financially.

One club that is not worried right now about its fixtures programme is the Rower Inistioge. Well done to all involved with the team on its historic Leinster intermediate title success.

Barring an unlikely defeat to Antrim’s Clooney Gaels, we can expect the Kilkenny champions to be playing in Croke Park in February in the All-Ireland final against Youghal, assuming the Cork men defeat their Galway opponents in the All-Ireland semi-final. Youghal will offer the toughest challenge yet to the Rower.

I also expected the Kilkenny junior champions, Lisdowney to make the All-Irealnd series. I was very surprised to see them lose out to Offaly’s Ballinamere in the provincial final on Sunday.

A poor first half was their undoing but they had enough chances after the interval to at least draw the game. Everyone involved with the team will be bitterly disappointed to see their quest for national honours come to such a sudden and unexpected conclusion.

The majority of clubs will never get to play in Croke Park but they are entitled to a regular programme of meaningful games. Many counties successfully achieve this objective.

In others a domineering team manager and weak officers mean that the ordinary club player is deprived of playing his favourite sport during the best period of the year for Gaelic games.

Somehow I do not see the situation improving because in many counties there is not the willingness to look after the ordinary club player.