‘TOLD you it could be done.’ That’s the likely response from club players up and down the country on hearing the news of a split season in 2021.
Their county championship games have been earmarked from next July following the completion of the inter-county season, which starts at the end of February.
Cork CEO/Sec, Kevin O’Donovan, in his annual report to convention recently said the county needed 14 weeks to complete their programme and he’s got his wish, for the most part anyway.
The last couple of weeks overlap with the start of the provincial club championships, but that’s a long, long way down the road just yet.
A meeting of Central Council on Friday rubberstamped the new season and at the same time, the Club Players Association issued a reminder of what they’ve been advocating from day one.
“Four years ago we presented the split season proposal to Croke Park and it wasn’t duly considered,” it said in a statement. “Now the consensus from everyone is that it is the best solution for our fixtures crisis.
“We commend GAA officials for working on this concept. We have said since day one, it’s not about who’s right but what’s right.”
Club players could be forgiven for asking the obvious question as to why it has taken a killer virus for Croke Park to see the blinding obvious, but then again, better late than never at all.
Feargal McGill, the GAA’s director of club, player and games administration, outlined the reasoning behind the decision to opt for inter-county first.
“If you took a short-term view you would say there is no guarantee we will be able to play club games in the first quarter of the year. We aren’t allowed do them now,” he said.
It was a point echoed by the CPA in their statement. “The six counties in Ulster are heading into a restrictive lockdown that will place significant restrictions on all sport including training and matches, until at least the start of February.
“In the rest of Ireland, it will be impossible to plan or play any club competitions until Level 2 or lower is implemented countrywide. This means that it will most likely be towards the end of March at the earliest before clubs could even hope to return.”
Continuing, McGill added: “If we look at the longer term. If the GAA are going to bring in a split season and it will be on the agenda for Congress in February, I think the right decision is still to put the county game first.
“There are a couple of reasons for that. If you ran with the club game first you could end up playing county finals at the end of April/the early part of May because then you have to run the provincial and All-Ireland club championships.
“That would be very early for the flagship team in every club to be finished their activity and we don’t think that would have been a good approach.
“There would be less appetite for teams to play in leagues and non-championship competitions once they are eliminated from the county championships.
“The third obvious thing is that if you ran with club first towards the end of the club season with the inter-county return to training would be eating into the time available for clubs.
“For all those reasons we think county first is a no-brainer to be quite honest,” McGill commented.
The CPA couldn’t avoid having a final pop at those counties poking the association in the eye.
“In looking forward, we also would hope to see an end to elected officials using their county platform to engage in unbecoming, Trumpesque, childish rants at bodies like the CPA as was noted in Wexford from the outgoing chairman.
“These antics undermine the dignity of the Office and reflect poorly on the GAA.”
The upshot of all this is of course that club players can now plan their lives around a fixture schedule that allows for such certainty, mindful the pandemic remains even with the arrival of vaccines.
As with life today, nobody knows what’s around the corner, never mind next year.