Plight of club players ignored as inter-county season expands

Plight of club players ignored as inter-county season expands
Bishopstown's Diarmuid Lester turns away from Douglas' Eoin Cadogan. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

IF you were writing some kind of farce designed to highlight the plight of the club players in the GAA, you’d be hard pressed to come up with that we’re going through right now.

Having already decided to set April and little else aside as the intercounty season grows through the addition of an expanded hurling championship at the start and then a bigger football competition at the end, you decide to throw in some horrific weather to ensure postponements in the national league.

To be fair, they didn’t affect things too much in the bigger scheme of things – Sunday’s national hurling league final and the two semi-finals had to go back a week, but obviously only Tipperary and Kilkenny were properly impeded in terms of holding county championship games. 

The decision to void three Division 4 football ties which didn’t impinge on promotion outcomes may not have been the best look, but there was some common sense in the call rather than denying clubs game-time.

Then, to turn our attentions Cork-wards, the games are set and 12 fixtures are down for decision on the opening weekend across senior and intermediate, with four in the top tier.

However, rain of biblical proportions on Friday afternoon and evening saw the decision taken to postpone a number of these games, including the senior tie set for Sunday between Aghada and O’Donovan Rossa in Ballygarvan and the PIFC double-header in Carrigadrohid featuring Bandon-Naomh Abán and Bantry Blues-Fermoy ties as well as Castletownbere and St Vincent’s in Inchigeela.

Off the top of our heads, we can’t think of too many championship games which have been postponed due to bad weather – we can certainly think of a few which perhaps should have been, like the 2008 IFC clash of Carrigaline and Erin’s Own in Páirc Uí Rinn in front of about 80 people in a deluge (the fact that it clashed with the Manchester United-Chelsea Champions League final may also have a part to play in that viewpoint).

Obviously, if a pitch is unplayable then nothing can be done and the county board fixture-setters will want as many games played as possible, so an already hard task has an added layer of difficulty attached to it before even reaching the start-line. 

It did seem strange that games set for Sunday were being called off on Friday rather than being fixed for different venues, but that perhaps indicates just how few grounds are available right now.

Given the various new frontiers at intercounty level, it’s hard to say with any certainty what the exact knock-on effects will be for the club game, but they were already likely to be negative and external agents like the weather are only compounding the damage.

Regarding the national hurling league final mentioned above, it was of course preceded by the camogie decider between Cork and Kilkenny, whose rivalry is reaching epic status.

This was the fourth national final in a row in which they have played, with the Cats claiming three, Sunday’s by just a point, though of course the Rebels are the reigning All-Ireland champions.

With Sunday’s clash televised on TG4 and played before a growing crowd in Nowlan Park, the promotion can only do the sport good, while the drama on the field ensures that everybody will be looking forward to a likely meeting in the closing stages of the championship with anticipation.

Tussles between the top practitioners in any sport, generating fierce rivalry are what draw interest in any sport and when Cork manager Paudie Murray and his Kilkenny counterpart Ann Downey are such strong personalities it only adds to the intrigue.

The challenge for everybody else is to try to stop Cork and Kilkenny from pulling so far clear of the pack that it becomes a duopoly at the top level, but the hope would be that the raising of the bar leads to a collective improvement.

Perhaps because camogie coverage is so good in Cork – in the Echo and on the radio, on RedFM, 96FM and C103 – we take it for granted. Hopefully the growth in national coverage will give it an extra boost.

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