THE more things change, the more they stay the same.
That’s something that could be applied to the GAA year in, year out, as far as the club versus county ruling goes, with county team managers continuing to dictate the movement of club players.
Over the past week, some strong voices have made their feelings known on the topic — among them, our own Denis Coughlan, a person of so much stature when he was a wonderful dual player and subsequently when he spoke from time to time. In other words, when he spoke you listened.
Very recently he was co-opted on to the executive of the Club Players Association (CPA), and one has no doubt that he will be a voice of reason and common sense on that body.
He has already made his feelings known on the thorny issue of the current situation being abused by counties not abiding by the time allocated to clubs to run off their championships from July 17 to October 11.
The CPA have requested the GAA use its temporary power to ensure that inter-county players are not coerced into training with their inter-county teams before the conclusion of the club championships, the 11-week window that has been allotted for that.
Croke Park will not tell counties how they should run their championships in that timeframe but, already, it seems there will be many different approaches to what has been stipulated.
Some counties, like Waterford and Wexford, intend to run their SHC in the form of a blitz, effectively, getting it all done and dusted in four weeks in order to keep the inter-county bosses happy.
Coughlan stated that he believed that Croke Park has been very fair in giving counties 11 weeks, and he believes squeezing things into a lot less time to make way for the manager of a county to spend more time with their players is not on.
He believes that county boards should avail of the 11-week window given to them.
“As an Association, we must respect the integrity of our club competitions, and this means using the time available in the best way.
“Suggestions of doing otherwise — blitz formats or shrinking to a very tight time-frame to enable county preparations — are sacrilege and will have long-lasting implications,” he said. How right he is, but will the inter-county team bosses be on board?
Are you joking?
Of course, they are right to want as much time as they can get with their players — but, my God, it’s getting out of hand completely.
Inter-county preparations are now starting in October and November for a competition that does not start until the following May.
Even for club league games, the players are not made available most of the time.
It looked at one stage earlier in the year that we would have no GAA games at all this year — but, now that we going to get them, why cannot everybody just play ball for the few months that it will take?
In his excellent column in the Irish Times last week, GAA correspondent Sean Moran stated: “This is an immensely challenging year for the GAA and society at large. Can everyone for once not just behave and get through it with as little friction as possible?”
Denis Coughlan pointed out, and very rightly so too, how the clubs had stood up to be counted during the Covid-19 crisis, organising fund-raising ventures, doing house-to-house deliveries and so on, to assist those less fortunate. He believed that clubs are not getting the best care from Croke Park, and how right he is.
There is conflict on a yearly basis between club fixtures and the demands of the inter-county boss.
This is happening with the top counties more than elsewhere because if there’s a chance of success, the team boss will push every button to get his way. And, inevitably, they get away with it simply because they know there are no sanctions of any major consequence.
Inter-county players should be left with their clubs until that club exits the championship over the coming months.
If that is sooner rather than later then no problem at all, let them off with the inter-county preparations.
It will certainly be very interesting to see how it will all work itself out when the games start up again.
Will the county that runs off its championship in four weeks have an advantage over the one that uses the full 11-weeks that has been allocated.
I don’t think that they will because an inter-county player with a club that goes right through the 11-weeks will still be hurling, will still be keeping sharp and will be every bit as fit as the fellow who had only four weeks with his club.
Whatever happens, there must be no coercion of players. Give and take must be the order for the next couple of months for everybody.