GAA Football

Damian Barton unhappy with lack of co-operation from Derry clubs

Damian Barton (extreme right) claims that his preparations for Derry matches are not made easy by lack of co-operation from clubs Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Andy Watters

DERRY’S age-old tug-of-war between club and county has reared its head again.

Just over two weeks before the Oak Leafers take on bitter rivals Tyrone in the Ulster Championship, Derry manager Damian Barton said his preparations were being undermined by fixture clashes and a the reluctance of clubs to let their players concentrate on county duty.

Barton said the county was “handicapped” by its “very successful club scene” and claimed that some clubs had decided “we don’t need anybody at the county”.

“It’s very difficult for the players,” said the Newbridge clubman.

“It’s well versed this pull of players between clubs and county and here we go again.

“There are club fixtures this weekend and it has been very difficult for the players.

“There are clubs who need their (county) players who have maybe lost a couple of games out of the first five that they’ve played and they’re playing against clubs that have no county players.

“Some clubs have circled the wagons and decided ‘we don’t need anybody at the county’ and that is very difficult and it sends out the wrong signals.

“If you don’t allow people to play this weekend their attitude (if they don’t play against Tyrone) will be: ‘Well, I told you you weren’t going to get on in the Tyrone game, you need to be playing with us’.”

Barton has called for the GAA to introduce a total segregation of club and county fixtures and says that would lead to a “more level playing field”.

“Croke Park have to segregate the club and county fixture list and they have to do that – for counties like us they have to do that,” he said.

“I’m going into a dressingroom this evening and there will be guys who will have been told by their clubs ‘you tell Barton that you’re playing for the club this weekend’. That’s preparation!”

He added: “Fair play to the clubs that are behind Derry. We have been handicapped that we have a very successful club scene and any club that has represented the county in Ulster has done quite well.

“A Derry team against a Monaghan team? I wouldn’t bet against them. A Derry team against a Tyrone team? I wouldn’t bet against them at club level.”

Barton claimed that rival county managers had been able to call off club games by making a phonecall. He doesn’t have that power.

“What do I do? Do I go in and say: ‘You’re not playing for your clubs?’ Who am I to say that?” he asked.

“Or ‘If you want to play for your clubs, don’t come back’. Who am I to say that?”

Meanwhile, Barton, now in his second year as manager, said taking the Derry reins has been “the most difficult thing I have ever been involved in”.

“There’s an awful lot that doesn’t sit easy with me,” he said.

“The best place to be, the most honest place, is out on the training pitch where everything, all the baggage, is left to one side and you have people working together. This has been the most difficult thing I have ever been involved in. Ever.

“I used to sit back involved with the club and you’re looking at multi-talented people and the resources that you can call on but that’s not the case (with Derry) because it boils down to finance. Commitment of finance and commitment of people.”

Despite his issues, Barton insisted he was not downbeat ahead of the May 28 Ulster quarter-final.

“I’m looking forward to the game,” he said.

“I don’t think it will bear any resemblance to last year (Tyrone won by 11 points). It’s different personnel and a totally different context. I would like to think we have learned from the League and I would like to think we have learned that we play a physically aggressive game.

“To a degree we were bullied last year on our home patch and that has happened us several times. But this is a one-off game and we’re not in a bad place.”

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GAA Football