GAA Football

Ring-fencing April for clubs will only work with goodwill of inter-county managers: Paddy Tally

St.Mary's manager Paddy Tally is sceptical about some of the GAA's fixture plans Picture by Philip Fitzpatrick

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PADDY Tally has welcomed the tightening of the GAA calendar for 2018 – but says some of the tweaks can only work with the goodwill of inter-county managers.

The St Mary’s manager also highlighted the need for the Association to make attempts to re-balance the training sessions per games ratio in Gaelic Games.

In a bid to give more time over to club programmes, the GAA has cleared the month of April from inter-county action - but Tally envisages problems as it is on the doorstep of the Championship.

New Donegal manager Declan Bonner has already expressed concern over ring-fencing April for clubs, although the GAA stopped short of calling it a ban on inter-county activity.

“I think giving April over to the clubs is fantastic but then again will they have access to their players?” said Tally.

Arguably a bigger issue for the Sigerson Cup winning manager is the high amount of training sessions players accrue for so little game-time.

“I was chatting to one of our players and he’s back training with his county. We started working out how many games he played for his county last year.

“It worked out he played two hours football in an entire season. You’re talking about 80 to 90 training sessions and two hours football.

“There’s not another sport in the world where that would happen. There is so much information on this now that tells us training is the problem.

“If the games were coming thick and fast, the players would love it, but there is so much training. It’s okay if you’re a nailed own starter in your team but if you’re between number 17 to 28 you mightn’t kick a ball all year, and you mightn’t be playing for your club, so you’re going to miss out on everything.

“You mightn’t stick it too long before you say: ‘This isn’t for me.’”

Third level football has been taking hits from all angles in recent years, although abolishing the U21 provincial Championship in favour of a summer-based U20 Championship alleviates some pressure on university teams at the business end of their seasons.

Despite the perceived criticism of inter-county managers and the demands they place on their players, Tally insisted that the increased prestige of the National League in recent years means that county teams need to hit the ground running.

“Years ago there was a bit of National League before Christmas and a bit after Christmas but you didn’t really hear too much about it, and that’s 20 years ago,” said the Galbally clubman.

“You used to drag players to play National League pre-Christmas… But the way the GAA has moved on the League is a premier competition; it’s the second most important competition.

“So there is a big push on the National League and teams want to do better in it because the higher up you go, the better competition it is for them.

“You can see the National League is starting that bit earlier next year and it’s squeezing the McKenna Cup [group stages] into seven days which puts a big burden on our squad.

“But that’s the way it is - and then we have the Sigerson coming up a couple of weeks after that.”

St Mary’s will face Tyrone, Cavan and Antrim in their Dr McKenna Cup section, beginning on Wednesday January 3.

Asked about the lack of fixture space in the calendar for third level teams, Tally replied: “It is getting harder. Is there an answer to it? I don’t know. The calendar still seems to be the big problem.

“I think even the fact the All-Ireland Club semi-final and final are still going to be played in February and March of next year doesn’t help.

“I think if they were played in the one calendar year that would have eased up some of the problems because Derry won’t have access to their Slaughtneil players, Armagh suffered for years with Crossmaglen’s success and Derry had the same problem with Ballinderry in the past. So that’s one of the big problems.”

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