GAA Football

Split season the way forward: Antrim and Lamh Dhearg's Conor Murray

Conor Murray enjoyed the uninterrupted period with his club

AS the inter-county season beckons, Conor Murray re-joins the Antrim panel but with a deeper appreciation of his club – and hopes 2020 is the year when the GAA decides to split the season into two.

Murray says this season was the first time in over a decade he was able to enjoy a week of uninterrupted training with his club Lamh Dhearg.

“I think because there was no county football, club football was the highlight of people’s Wednesday nights or weekends, especially for the players” he said.

“I think that’s the first time in about 15 years I’ve actually trained a full week with the club because you always had county commitments.

“We were used to training with the county on Tuesday, with the club on Wednesday, a recovery session on the Thursday, train with the county on Saturday morning and then a club game on a Sunday – so you weren’t really doing a lot apart from playing two matches and you were out of the house five nights a week.

“But this year you were able to train two nights with the club and focus on a game. I definitely think there is scope for separate seasons.”

And the exposure the club championships received via Facebook showed the grassroots of the GAA in a very flattering light.

“Especially the way Sean Kelly [Antrim PRO] went about promoting the games and then Jerome Quinn became involved and streaming the games on Facebook was brilliant.

“I was watching intermediate hurling games and junior football matches. People from the outside probably don’t understand what actually goes on within a club; it’s not just playing matches. There is so much more to it.”

While everyone has enjoyed the after-glow of a thrilling club championship, Murray says his focus is firmly on getting Antrim promoted out of Division Four where they’ve remained for the last three seasons.

Antrim face Wicklow (Saturday October 17) before rounding off their Division Four campaign at home to Waterford (Saturday October 24). Two wins would guarantee the keys to Division Three although a win and a draw still might be enough for Lenny Harbinson’s men.

“Because we still have something to play for in the League is a big help,” Murray added.

“The last time we played was against Limerick (in March) up in Portglenone, we were very good. And I think that’s sticking in our heads now. With Wicklow and Waterford to play, if we’re being realistic, this is one of the best chances in years to get promoted.

“If we didn’t have anything to play for and we were looking at the Championship in November time it would have been harder to motivate players to train for two months but we’ve just two weeks before the League game against Wicklow down in Aughrim.”

It’s still unclear how the Antrim squad plans to make the 300-mile round trip to Aughrim later this month especially with the looming threat of Covid.

“All we can do is train and focus on the match. All the other stuff is external. Because we’re in the north and we’re playing in Aughrim should we stay in a hotel or do we travel down on the day for the match? We don’t know.

“But all we’re thinking of is that we’re training three days a week and focusing on Wicklow, and that’s all we can really do.”

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GAA Football