Paraic Duffy urges county boards to stand up to managers over April club window

Ard Stiúrthóir of the GAA Páraic Duffy speaking during the GAA Director General's Annual Report launch at Croke Park Picture by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

RETIRING GAA Director General Paraic Duffy has demanded that county boards clamp down on stubborn bosses and ensure the new April club window is a success.

Duffy will shortly depart his role and yesterday released his 11th and final annual report, which touched on a broad range of hot topics.

One of them was the inter-county shutdown which will kick in for the first time this April, freeing up time exclusively for club games.

Various commentators have claimed it won’t work because inter-county managers simply won’t release their players so close to the summer.

But a fired up Duffy said it’s down to individual county boards to show they’re the ones “calling the shots” and to demand that all players be made available for club games.

“You get some people who make a lot of noise about this, because they’re calling the shots,” said Duffy of county managers. “The county board need to ask themselves: ‘Who’s running the show?’ They appointed them. So I don’t accept that. April is there for the clubs and there’s no reason why fellas can’t play with their clubs.

“They can train with the county during the week, play challenge matches on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, but at weekends they should be available for their clubs.

“There should be no apologies for that and no rowing back. And if it is rowed back on then it’s because the county boards aren’t doing their business.”

Cork hurling great Sean Og O hAilpin, claimed late last year that anyone living “in the real world” won’t risk injuries to key players so close to the Championship.

“Basically, I think Paraic Duffy has kicked to touch on that,” said O hAilpin.

“He should have just said, it should have just came from him at the top: ‘No-one is to participate in inter-county training that month. End of’. He didn’t, he left it open knowing full well that inter-county managers will dictate.”

But Duffy is adamant that condensing the inter-county calendar to free up April for clubs can be a major success.

“Why should there be a problem? It’s a problem if you think the clubs have no rights,” said Duffy.

“Clubs have equal rights to counties. Why should the county manager decide that, ‘No, they won’t play with the clubs?’ There is no reason in the world why club games can’t go ahead in April. Why should managers get to decide, ‘Oh no, that’s not going to happen?’”

Duffy insisted that some managers, including Malachy O’Rourke in his native Monaghan, are actively engaging with the new plan and trying to make it work.

“In fairness, a lot of managers are really good in this space – Malachy O’Rourke has been very successful with Monaghan and he’s spot on in working with the county committee and the CCC (Competitions Control Committee),” said Duffy. “That’s the same in a lot of counties.”

Duffy said that if the GAA’s new condensed inter-county season works this year then the “next logical step” will be to complete all competitions in the same calendar year.

As far back as August of 2014, Central Council agreed that the All-Ireland club championships should be completed within the calendar year, though this still hasn’t happened.

“Logic dictates that it is a change that should be made sooner rather than later,” wrote Duffy in his report, expanding on the point in an interview at yesterday’s launch of the document.

“It definitely can be done,” he said. “It’s still 52 weeks we have, starting on the 1st of January until the 31st of December. There’s no reason why it can’t be done.

“It’s a discussion that needs to take place but I accept it probably won’t take place until the end of this year or maybe even the end of next year.

“I honestly believe that if we staged the club finals at Croke Park in December, under lights, it would be terrific.”

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