THE GAA have finally released their Master Fixture Plan for 2018.
Considering I plan on playing club football next year and will also be training the Limerick football team I have an interest in this from both sides.
It was interesting to hear Padraig Duffy explain that the month of April is free to the clubs to play championship games but that he didn’t actually expect many counties to actually start their championships during this period. You would wonder is this response to the countrywide criticism to the 'club-only' month of April when the draft details were released a few weeks previous.
Anyhow if club championships are not started in April you would question what was the purpose behind the month of April. The club coach might have his county players for one or two league games in April but then wait three months again before the player is available which will be for championship.
A big gap between the league and championship and no one gets real benefit from the month of April idea. Many counties will, in fact, use the month for some heavy pre-championship preparations so some players will rule themselves out of club action particularly, as inter-county championship is only around the corner while club championship could be three months away.
When I was involved with Cork you generally played one game with the club in late February and then saw action again in early April, which was usually six or seven days before first round of the club championship. Irrespective of how well Cork were doing you were anxious to play a club game, as it would benefit preparations for the first round game.
Looking ahead to the McGrath Cup and National League you could have possibly 10 competitive games over 12 weekends. As a player, it is ideal as you have a regular program of games and the dates won't change.
The thing with less successful counties is that prospect may not be as attractive as it may seem. No doubt as the likes of Dublin, Kerry, and Mayo are planning ahead for the coming year, barring retirements, the management can expect most players are interested in going forward for selection again.
As there is not the guarantee of big games in front of big attendances there can be a big turnover of squads in Division 3 and Division 4 from year to year. This can make it difficult to make progress over a long period.
A factor which would help would be funding support from Croke Park to ensure all teams have the same sports science, strength and conditioning, performance analysis and medical and nutritional support.
Then is it comes down to the different talent, coaching and systems in each squad to decide who actually comes out on top.
On my recent trips to the Cork football club finals you couldn’t but be impressed by the Pairc Ui Chaoimh stadium viewing areas and facilities. As you approach the stadium you are met by the sight of the 4G-astro pitch together with the backdrop of the main South stand.
When you consider what the old stadium looked like it has been some transformation. The 4G pitch has been a hive of activity this week with the various Cork regional academy squads in action.
It's only right that the next generation get to train and play where the current inter-county teams will prepare from next season onwards. It’s ideal to illustrate that pathway from development to senior inter-county level.
Considering all this it’s just a pity there wasn’t room to include at least one more training pitch. Obviously, with space restrictions, it wasn’t possible to create a multi-pitch set up similar to Centres of Excellence in Tyrone, and Kerry.
The addition of even one more pitch though would have made things very advantageous from an operational point of view. This would have enabled both Senior hurling and football teams to train at the same time. Unfortunately, now they may have to train on different nights or train in facilities elsewhere.
Training the Limerick senior football I would have experienced similar logistical factors. Earlier in the season, in particular, we would train on alternate nights to the Limerick senior hurling team.
Limerick GAA have very good facilities in Rathkeale but over the cold wet winter or early spring period the 3G-astro pitch is the main facility used by the senior teams. The grass pitches get a break as they are well used by club games and county teams over the remaining months.
Laois GAA now have three full-size pitches surrounding the main stadium in Portlaoise. Having a gym, training pitches and main pitch all on the same site is probably the ideal set up.
The coming weeks will centre on Cork clubs progress in the provincial club championship. Looking back at Clyda Rovers' voyage to Munster glory in 2013, it can be a special time.
The winter is in and the weather can be poor but it’s nearly irrelevant. Players and club members alike are on a high after finally winning the county while simultaneously full of anticipation for what glory could be ahead.
New teams to play, day trips around Munster and winning meant you were one step closer to getting to Croke Park. It felt like a very short but enjoyable winter that year.
Mallow, Knocknagree and especially Kanturk have created some special memories over the last weeks. It will be interesting to see what progress each team may make.
Some teams fall short in Munster as they never quite have the same hunger and drive as was displayed on the county winning journey. It is not until players are in the heat of the battle until they realise this. Unfortunately, it can be too late to change things at this stage and winnable games just slip away.
Wins must be celebrated but it is the team, who have the focus to realise that the chance to win a club Ireland may only come around once in a lifetime. These are the teams that will give themselves that chance for further success over the next few weeks.
CONTACT: @paudiekissane www.pkperformance.ie