Inside Track with John McIntyre
IT’S barely mid-December and already next year’s GAA radical and condensed fixtures programme is coming under strain. The basic tenant behind the overhaul which includes an earlier start to the National Leagues and an earlier completion to the championships was to improve the lot of club players and to give them some certainty as to when they would be playing.
The GAA’s aspirations on this long-standing problem were undoubtedly honourable but, if anything, their attempts to tackle the frustrations of club hurlers and footballers could end up making the situation worse. Furthermore, the Mayo footballers have now thrown a rocket under the proposal to leave the entire month of April free for club championships.
Mayo have reportedly got approval from their own County Board for a training week/camp during that month after which members of the squad would be unavailable to their clubs. It’s basically a two-finger salute to the GAA’s new fixtures schedule and if Mayo look like they are going to get away with it, what’s to stop other counties following suit? It would be a shocking precedent and is an issue which has to be confronted.
Already, the Association is insisting that the planned Mayo camp is a domestic issue, but surely there is an obligation on the GAA to flex their muscle on this controversy or else they are risking anarchy up and down the country. Leaving aside Mayo’s breeching of the new fixtures calendar, the condensed inter-county programme still represents a high-risk strategy.
Apart from our reservations about bringing forward the All-Ireland finals to late August, there is so little margin for error and so much pressure on inter-county players, particularly in the early months of the year, that some of them could break-down injury wise. Apart from the pre-season tournaments like the FBD League, local under 21 games, and the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups will also have to be played.
Some of the younger members of inter-county panels will hardly have time to draw breath and with the Munster and Leinster hurling championships being run on a round-robin system for the first time ever, Galway will play five games alone in the province assuming that they reach the final. The league fixtures are also coming thick and fast, putting an inordinate strain on men who are supposed to be amateurs.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.