GAA Football

How do you solve a problem like the GAA fixtures calendar? Answers on a postcard (from Belgium)

Micheal Briody, chairman of the Club Players' Association, expects this year to be 'carnage' for the club fixtures calendar
Neil Loughran

IT’S just over a year since the Club Players’ Association was launched, with addressing the GAA’s malfunctioning fixture schedule their number one priority.

Twelve months on, are we any better off? Significant change has been made to both the inter-county football and hurling calendars but there is no clear vision to improve conditions for the thousands of club players up and down the country.

CPA chairman Micheal Briody predicted 2018 would be “carnage for the club”, while newspaper columnists are still offering their tuppence worth every week it seems in a bid to find clarity.

‘M O Ruairc’, exiled in Belgium but still following events back on home soil, believes the only option is a complete separation of club and county players – with players forced to decide which they represent.

“We have had a similar intractable problem before,” he said.

“Some years back inter-county hurling fixtures were frequently knocked out of joint because of the dual player problem.

“Trying to put an end to that option was regarded as inconceivable, the very death knell of the Association. Common sense did prevail, however, and dual stars had to make a choice and the GAA survived.

“Nobody wants to grasp the nettle and yet the solution is so obvious. It’s based on the principle of one player, one team. The budding county player will have to make a choice, as dual players have to, a choice the vast majority of club players do not have.

“The club-county fixtures clash would disappear. Club competitions would be held on Saturday and county matches on Sunday, with the season running from mid-March to mid-October. All other considerations are pure waffle.

“Underage competitions can be organised and managed separately. Third-level (adult) competitions are a different matter. They could be played off-season with certain restrictions. They should be confined to players under 23.

“No player should be allowed to represent more than one college or to participate in the competition on more than four occasions. It might also be worth considering the exclusion of current county players.

“Just my modest contribution to the debate and certainly a voice in the wilderness. But the nuclear option is really the only one.”

It’s an interesting proposal, but the idea of taking the county players out of the club scene altogether goes completely against the ethos of the GAA.

Imagine being the coach/coaches who puts years into developing a young lad only for him, if good enough to make the grade at county level, to then be unavailable to the club that brought him to that point? The current situation might not be a whole lot better but at least players get to give something back at some stage.

Also, it’s hard to see how – if clubs are left without their best players - this wouldn’t have a detrimental effect on already diminishing attendance figures in many counties.

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MOVING on, ‘Sean from Thomas Clarke’s, Dungannon’ got in touch to praise Cahair O’Kane’s January 9 column highlighting why the GAA must avoid the pitfalls of segregating players from their clubs as seen in rugby.

‘Sean’ said: “I know from meeting lads my own age on county panels how restricted they are in terms of club football.

“Also, the GAA is special. It unites parishes for games, functions, weddings, funerals and events. Those ideals are essential going forward.

“The new director general must keep that in mind and not allow rampant commercialism to run the game. Yes, limited sponsorship is required to fund the organisation, but not to run it. A healthy balance must be struck between the club and county games.

“Tell Cahair to keep up his good work.”

He says you’re not a bad spud

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THE Dr McKenna Cup may not be over for another two months, but it’s never too early in the year to start looking ahead to the summer months.

‘Conor from Dungannon’ expects Tyrone to win a third Ulster title in-a-row – unsurprising since it was a stroll for them last year.

But he believes Down, in search of a first provincial title in 24 years, are the ones to watch after last summer’s surprise run to the Ulster final.

“They're on the rise big time,” said ‘Conor’.

“Mickey Harte needs to bring in new talent to freshen it up and let the players attack instead of this defensive s**t.

“We won't win All-Irelands playing like that but it wouldn't shock me if Down was to win the Anglo-Celt this year. We'll be red hot favourites but that means nothing.

“I could nearly name Micky Harte’s team for the Championship. If any team will stop us winning three in-a-row, it's Down.

“They’re on the up big time.”

‘Conor’, I hope you’re right

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Tributes have been paid to Joey Cunningham in the wake of last week's two-part feature on the former Portadown winger

AND finally, there was a lot of reaction to last week’s two-part feature on former Armagh GAA player and Portadown wing wizard Joey Cunningham, where he discussed the racial abuse suffered during his Irish League playing days.

Here are some of the comments that came our way on Twitter.

Enda McAtamney: “I played against Joey in an Ulster minor semi final in Breffni Park in 1984. I was fast, he was lightening. I saw him when the ball was thrown in, don't think I saw him again until the game was over. I had never experienced pace like that, ever… nobody should ever have to suffer that level of abuse. Sadly it still happens today. Up to us all to tackle it where we find it.”

Fergal Doyle: “Super talented fella for Forkhill, Cross and Armagh. Regret not going to see him play soccer. By all accounts was the heartbeat of the great Portadown side that won all before them.”

Johnny Flynn: “Joey was a childhood friend growing up in Forkhill and we played Gaelic together. He was always a special talent but never thought he was better than us lesser mortals. His skills on the field are legendary but more relevant is his moral fortitude, and self effacing character”

Drew Lutton: “Best footballer I ever seen in over 40 years following the Ports. Graceful, skilful, pace and finishing ability. Made the hairs stand on my back when he had the ball.”

Constance Short: “I remember Joey playing for Cross. He was terrific. It's heart-breaking we would treat anyone differently because of the colour of their skin or for that matter from a different religion. I hope Joey is enjoying a good life because he gave us great pleasure on the field.”

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