Time to part club and inter-county seasons, suggests Sean Cavanagh
FORMER Tyrone captain Sean Cavanagh believes further changes are needed to the GAA calendar – perhaps even completely separating the club and inter-county seasons.
The 35-year-old took charge of his own club, The Moy, this year but was frustrated that they spent almost two summer months training rather than playing any games.
“We had an eight-week break in the middle of the summer in Tyrone. I think we played a game around the second of July – and then didn’t play again for seven or eight weeks.
“We had a few guys who went to the [United] States and had holidays and didn’t miss a game. The rest of us were just training away. It’s very hard, I was managing the team at that point as well, and it’s very hard to keep the guys motivated without a game for seven weeks.
“There was nothing at all, just training away two or three times a week and trying to keep the lads motivated. But, sure, you were getting maybe 10 lads at training and you couldn’t really argue with the guys who were just taking the chance to go on holidays and things like that.
“Ironically, those are probably the best two months for playing football, a bit of sun - and the vast majority of players weren’t getting a game of football.”
Cavanagh feels that it’s now nigh on impossible for club and inter-county seasons to run in parallel and the Association must look at splitting them totally:
“I think we might be looking at something like that. It’s hard to say to clubs ‘You have to play without your county guys’, or only play with them in-between when the timeframe allows.
“I know this year Tyrone made it to the [All-Ireland] final and that made it an exceptional year, but look at some of the other counties and they haven’t done much better, even though there was supposed to be a new start. There’s definitely much more work to be done.”
Further changes must be made to the GAA calendar, Cavanagh argues: “I think there’s still a bit more to go there.
“The whole ‘club month’ for April, I’m not convinced that works because the reality is that the guys who are with the county have just finished a very hectic [National] League campaign, where they were playing virtually week on week.
“Then they come back to their clubs and I know this year the likes of [my brother] Colm and Harry [Loughran] didn’t, or couldn’t, play in those games with the club, because they were carrying niggles.
“I know from being a county player that you do have your eye on the Championship, which can be just a few weeks down the line. I’m not convinced [April] is the right thing to do…
“I would be very much in favour of trying to condense the county season even further and maybe bring it further forward. Just let the guys have the county season from January to June, or something like that, and then start the club season.”
The lack of action on the club front has an actual cost, not just in terms of a lack of games, Cavanagh explains: “Clubs are playing big money to managers, but you can go three or four months, maybe five, where the clubs aren’t actually playing games – but are paying big expenses and money to managers. You’d be inclined to limit that as much as possible, clubs are struggling enough and probably don’t need that expense.
“They shouldn’t [be paying], but that’s the reality, and there’s no point me ignoring it. Every club, probably including my own, has been at, so that’s where we’re at.”