GAA Football

McKaigue: GPA needs to be more proactive on fixtures issue

Derry and Slaughtneil dual star Chrissy McKaigue has called on the GPA to become more involved in helping alleviate the fixtures crisis in the GAA. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

CHRISSY McKaigue has called on the GPA to become more proactive in helping the Club Players’ Association and says the GAA can learn from the fixture models of other sports.

Speaking at the announcement of the CPA’s national fixture plan on Tuesday, the Derry dual star said the current fixture list is “draconian” and that players must have more time and structure for their lives outside football.

Between club and county commitments in football and hurling, McKaigue has been on the go with very little rest since Slaughtneil reached the Ulster club hurling final in 2013.

Since then they have won the last three football and hurling Championships in Derry, two Ulster football titles after which they reached the All-Ireland decider both years, and were crowned Ulster hurling champions for the first time last winter.

On top of his inter-county commitments – which included a return to the county hurling squad this year – there has been very little downtime in four years.

The unofficial club players’ body are calling on the GAA to make April a month completely free of inter-county activity, and for December to be a closed month for all players.

To date the GPA have not involved themselves directly in the issue of trying to solve club fixtures, although there have been meetings between their executive committee and that of the CPA.

“To be perfectly straight, I’d like to see the GPA become more proactive and helping the CPA,” said McKaigue.

”At the start the GPA took a while to find its feet and they battled very hard to get the name they have now.

“The CPA is in its founding months and I’d like to see the GPA backing it more. The best player to the worst player, they all have one thing in common – they’re all club players.”

Having experienced the off-season enjoyed by professional sports stars when he was on the books of AFL giants Sydney Swans, the 28-year-old feels there is plenty to be learned.

“The off-season was nearly longer than the in-season. It was amazing. We can definitely learn a lot from the models of other sports.

“Australian and American sports have shown advancements in many ways and they’ve shown models of fixtures.

“There’s too much of the GAA fixture schedule that’s draconian. That’s the only word I can use to describe it.

“Too many of the minds that are needed to change it are also set in stone, which doesn’t make for a very promising situation.”

During the 2015 campaign, Slaughtneil’s dual players had 13 Championship games in 11 weeks leading into their Ulster club semi-final defeat by Scotstown.

That was at the end of a year that had seen them play in the All-Ireland final in March.

Backing the CPA’s call for the All-Ireland club finals to be brought inside the same calendar year as the provincial competitions, McKaigue feels the romanticism around St Patrick’s Day is superseded by the need to solve widespread fixture issues.

“The more common-sense approach is to condense the season and have set landmark dates for set competitions, and allow people to plan their lives around their sport.

“Sometimes we forget we are amateur athletes, so to speak. We have to have plans in place that allow a normal life around it.

“At the minute the demands are big enough that without knowing what’s on the horizon a lot of the time, I know how chaotic it can be. I hope some kind of change can be made.”

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