GAA Football

Clubs and counties must compromise for best way to bring GAA back - Michael Murphy

Michael Murphy on the attack against Kerry in last year's Super 8 series. The Donegal skipper favours a straight knockout Championship this year.
Picture by Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

IRELAND needs its games back, says Michael Murphy, and the Donegal skipper is confident that all the issues with the club and county calendars for 2020 can be ironed out if there is a willingness to compromise on both sides.

The Glenswilly clubman, who skippered Donegal to the Ulster Championship last year, says he would favour a club championship and then, after three weeks’ preparation for county players, a straight knockout race for the Sam Maguire which would be finished in the calendar year.

The priority for Murphy is that the games return and while there are concerns that county managers will call up players at height of the truncated club season (club game will start on July 31 with the county season beginning on October 17), Murphy has urged all interested parties to work together and trash out a deal that will make both fit into the available timespan.

“Player-wise it’s a good situation because we’re getting games, we’re getting football,” he said.

“The one thing I was hoping for at the start of this pandemic was that there would be football, that there would be a season.

“Is it going to be tricky and difficult? It is. You’d imagine it is going to be messy, however I still think it is achievable and within the timeframe we can manage a club championship and a county championship but there’s going to have to be give-and-take on both sides.

“Have we shown a history of that give-and-take? Probably not but there’s an opportunity now for that to be shown. In Donegal I see no reason why we can’t run our club championship in the allotted time – we play in four groups of four (three games each) and then on to quarter-finals, semis and the final. That’s six games potentially for the winners so there’s no reason we can’t come together to play with our clubs over that six-eight week period and then get the lead-in to the inter-county championship and, as that is going on, maybe a club league can be played so (club) players can get even more games and the county players can go on and get ready for the Championship.”

His preference is that Championship will have an old-school, straight knockout format and with Donegal scheduled to meet Tyrone (although that may change) excitement levels among fans will be at fever pitch from the throw-in.

“Maybe a straight knockout is the way to go this year in order for us to get football,” he said.

“I’m up for it. I feel we need to compromise, nothing is going to be perfect this season but the compromise is that we need to look at a straight knockout and create a bit of excitement – something new.”

As for the National Leagues, with Donegal in mid-table in Division One, Murphy admits that he isn’t particularly concerned about playing the two outstanding fixtures.

However, he does understand why counties chasing promotion are campaigning for them to be finished and suggested that they could be concluded early next year, perhaps at the expense of the Dr McKenna Cup.

“We’re mid-table so I have no huge preference,” he said.

“If I was sitting in the relegation zone – which we’re not far away from – or in the promotion zone then maybe I would have a different view. But at the moment we want to run our club championships and our inter-county championships and I’m asking how we are going to fit them in, in the calendar year.

“Is it a possibility to run the National League and the county Championship and at the same time try and play with your club? I don’t believe it is.

“So what do you do with the National League of 2020? I know that teams who are chasing promotion will be striving to try and get it back up and running again. Possibly it could be played at the start of next year instead of the pre-season competitions before the 2021 League.”

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