GAA Football

GAA must make 2020 vision the norm says Down veteran Kevin McKernan who welcomes Jim McCorry appointed in Burren

The GAA should make 2020 format the norm says Down veteran Kevin McKernan. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

FOR the GAA not to make separate club and inter-county seasons the norm in the future would be “ludicrous” says experienced Down campaigner Kevin McKernan.

Burren clubman McKernan, a veteran of 13 inter-county seasons, says the 2020 format which was stumbled upon because of the Covid pandemic should now become enshrined in the GAA fixtures calendar. And he is certain that the overwhelming majority of players – both club and county – would welcome the move.

“Going forward, the split season and the condensed county season makes it more conducive to being an inter-county footballer for longer,” he said.

“If the GAA don't learn from the split season and the feedback from county players then there's something wrong.

“You hear it from Dean Rock, from boys in Tyrone and all over. They never enjoyed a club season or a county season like it because they had the split season.”

With county players fully involved, revitalised club championships throughout the country last year were celebrated for their quality and entertainment. McKernan says that clearly defined seasons would encourage players to give more, for longer.

“I'd like to see a definite season when you know there's a five or six-week pre-season and then a condensed 12-16-week county season and a 12-16-week club season,” he said.

“It's the way to go. Even in club football, I can hear boys saying the same thing.

“They want to know when the club window is. There might be a divisional league or something for club players to be involved in when the county season is happening but they know that they're going to have county men for eight or nine league games and then for the championship games.

“I think it'll be ludicrous if the GAA don't try to go down that route.”

One drawback from a condensed inter-county season could be a loss of revenue to the GAA but McKernan argues that any shortfall could be made up because of increased interest in the club game. With fans banned or limited in 2020, GAA fans made the most of improved internet streaming services and the Down defender predicts that, in a split season, those fans would happily attend club games when doing so becomes possible again.

“You saw it in the club season whenever it got its solo window,” he said.

“There is scope there for county boards to make money through gates. I'm sure they can make their money that way. I was tuning in to matches online from other counties, paying a fiver here and there to watch those games.

“If there's a Derry or Armagh or Tyrone championship match on that someone can pay to go to, they'll go and watch it.”

Meanwhile, in the 2021 season McKernan will link up with his former Down manager Jim McCorry who has taken over from Paddy O'Rourke as manager of Burren. McCorry, who set Kilcoo's dominance of the Down senior championship in motion during his time at the club, stepped down from his role as Armagh's assistant-manager earlier this month.

“Whenever I heard Jim had the job I couldn't believe he was an option for us,” said McKernan.

“I was delighted we got a man of his calibre. He's been with Armagh and he set up Kilcoo's unprecedented run of championships.

“He will bring a freshness to our club and he'll get the best out of a very good bunch of players. “Hopefully by February or March we'll have some sort of normality where you can meet up and train and it'll be brilliant to have him involved because the players are there and he can use knowledge and experience to help bring the young boys through.”

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GAA Football