Split season has start and end dates which help a player’s life balance: Antrim hurler Paddy Burke

‘I love it because you know your time off’

Antrim's Paddy Burke has heaped praise on S&C coach Brendan Murphy Picture: Philip Walsh
Paddy Burke (right) has backed the split season Picture: Philip Walsh

THE split season may be incurring the wrath of some of the GAA’s top brass and football and hurling management teams – but there are quite a few inter-county players that wouldn’t change a thing.

Antrim and Cushendall hurler Paddy Burke is the latest inter-county player to voice his support for the split season in its current guise, despite GAA President Jarlath Burns wanting the All-Ireland football and hurling finals to be pushed back to their traditional dates in September.

Aaron Kernan was a leading member of the now disbanded Club Players Association [CPA] – a pressure group that successfully lobbied for a club and county split season in 2021.

Kernan, however, sees flaws in what has manifested over the last three seasons and acknowledges that the GAA cannot properly market their All-Ireland senior finals because of the condensed nature of the inter-county schedule.

From a player’s point of view, though, Burke says it gives him more life balance than the old system.

“I love the split season” said Burke, who rounded off his inter-county year last Sunday with Antrim beating Carlow to stay in the Leinster SHC series in 2025.

“We were with Cushendall [in the All-Ireland series up until mid-December] and came back in the first week of January while the rest of the boys had been in since November. So, you’re going from November to May – it is long.

“We’ll get a break now if we want it and we’ll be able to go on holiday because the club championship is three months away, whereas if you went to summer we’d get no break.

“If your club season isn’t successful and you finish in October, you’ve another month. As players, I love it because you know when your season is starting and ending, and you know your time off.”

In an interview with The Irish News last December, Armagh footballer Rory Grugan was of the same opinion that specific start and end dates in the new split season helps a player’s life balance.

“I understand people talking about pushing the inter-county season into August, and a couple of weeks would be good, but I’d also be reticent about going back to the old way,” said Grugan.

“For the last couple of years being able to go on a holiday in the summer – and that was Armagh getting to an All-Ireland quarter-final, which wasn’t always happening – it’s been a nice thing.

“You get a bit of time to finish off your club season depending on the structure and then you can go and play your club championship. And younger fellas can go out to America for four or five weeks.”

Armagh's Rory Grugan is in favour of a start and end dates to the club and county schedules (seamus loughran)

Armagh, it could be argued, have suffered at the hands of the split season more than any other county team.

To help stay within the tight confines of the inter-county schedule, Armagh have featured in four penalty shoot-outs – a direct consequence of the split season – losing back-to-back Ulster finals and two All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Armagh coach Ciaran McKeever believes the split season is not fit for purpose.

“It’s clear the whole thing needs to be looked at because the condensed season is too condensed. There must be a rethink. The whole point of having a split season - and what the CPA was crying about was that county players weren’t getting to play club football.

“They were probably getting to play more club football in the old system and the harsh reality of the condensed season is that there is no club football for the county player.

“By stretching the inter-county season back out for replays to take place in provincial finals, All-Ireland quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals is simply the right thing to do.”