IT’S coming near that time again when counties sit down to discuss how they can improve on their fixture schedule going forward for the season ahead.
There has been a lot of talk, proposals and debates over the last number of months on how those controlling our games at a national level should structure the fixtures better in an effort to help the clubs.
Some will make the argument that Croke Park should draw up a fixture calendar and county boards should fall into line then everything would be rosy in the garden, but in reality that is never going to work and it would be a complete cop out to continue with this ridiculous presumption.
I’m not going to waste my time or energy, like a lot of people have done in recent months, by sitting down and trying to draw up a blue print that will work and sort all issues because plain and simple if the powers that be do not come up with the model themselves and cannot take the credit for it, then they are never going to implement a plan devised by Kevin Cassidy or any other Kevin Cassidy for that matter.
Instead I’m going to point out a few obvious problems that must be sorted if we are to stand any chance of rectifying the issues at hand.
1. Scrap the u-21 competitions at both club and county level. It has lost its value and serves no purpose in terms of player development. At county level most guys who would be on the u-21 panels are knocking about senior panels anyway once they leave minor so we are only adding another team and another set of fixtures to the mix.
Take Donegal for example I think they have in the region of nine u-21s in the senior squad so that means that either the senior team or the u-21s will be without those guys at training due to them being involved with the other team.
At club level here it’s a joke I’m not even kidding when I say this but I actually don’t even know if this year’s competition has been played or not. I asked four different people from four different clubs this week what stage the tournament was at? “couldn’t tell ya, hi” was the answer I got that tells me it’s dead in the water.
Some may say that it provides a valuable experience for players who are not ready to make the step up to senior just yet, well my answer to that is the Sigerson and Trench Cup competitions. These competitions should be used by those players looking to ready themselves for senior football.
2 Change minor grade to u-19. It makes no sense at all that the most important academic year when students sit their leaving cert and A-levels should clash with a major football tournament.
Players shouldn’t be expected to travel up and down the road to training busting their guts trying to make a minor panel when their whole academic career is at its most critical point.
Perhaps it’s the teacher in me coming out but I feel it’s wrong to expect young lads at that age to deal with both commitments at once. Competitions and games are paused during the month of June to allow players the opportunity to concentrate on exams so why not get rid of the issue altogether?
If it were moved to u-19 it would allow players the opportunity to fully concentrate on their studies, it would ease the fixtures congestion at the busiest time of the year and would also act as a strong stepping stone between underage and senior football if the u-21 grade was abolished.
3 Shorten the length of time between games at inter county level. To think that we still have three- and four-week break between games is an absolute joke.
At the minute managers don’t allow their players to play any club football three or four weeks before big games. They won’t admit that but most squads will have a meeting where the captain or someone will speak up and say “lads I know we have club matches but Jesus we have a big game in three weeks time could you not sit them out?” And as this was not a pre-arranged star fixture, the clubs are up in arms.
I was reading an interview with Kerry’s Brian Sheehan who was speaking after he captained south Kerry to their championship win. Brian has been playing for 11 consecutive weeks and he said he wouldn’t want it any other way, to conclude he urged the GAA to stop the nonsense of having massive gaps between games.
Players would rather play than train so for God’s sake listen to them when they tell you that games must be closer together and by doing that alone the GAA would be halfway to solving the problems that currently exist. As it was Brian who said this and not Croke Park officials don’t hold your breath for it becoming reality.
4. County players should be expected to line out for their clubs in all games except for the week before a championship match.
That way club games can go ahead week after week and provide games for our club players and not leave them sitting idle for months on end.
I can’t see any club having an issue with that so therefore we shouldn’t have this constant argument over star games and teams refusing to play without their players.
Like I said I have no urge to release the Kevin Cassidy fixtures blueprint that will save the GAA but in my eyes those issues above must be tackled and if they are then it would go a long way to help shorten the never-ending GAA season.