Linda Mellerick: Camogie chiefs were right to worry about the club game

Association will have to row back on their current plan but it's proper order that the majority of players aren't left on the sidelines for the whole summer
Linda Mellerick: Camogie chiefs were right to worry about the club game

Douglas' Katrina Mackey shoots from Sarsfields' Chloe Casey and Lucy Kelly during the SE Systems Cork Senior Camogie Championship at Castle Road. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

ONCE again, there was significant unrest among some camogie members last weekend after a decision taken by the camogie association surrounding this year’s inter-county and club fixtures.

In this case, I have to say that I felt sorry for the Association. Their heart was in the right place in what they were trying to achieve ie, giving the majority of their members, which are club only players, the opportunity to get game time as soon as possible and to play during the summer months.

The Association said: “Having lost four months from the normal playing calendar due to Covid-19 restrictions, the priority for the association was confirmed as “providing as much camogie to as many girls as possible in the remaining eight months of the year.

“This mirrors the approach taken in 2020 — participation is a priority for the camogie association.”

All players want a split season. The thing is, their proposal isn’t a split season and it isn’t the same as 2020, as inter-county managements were forbidden from pulling players from club training or challenge games last year.

With the proposed scenario of inter-county league, then club championship and then inter-county championship for 2021, clubs won’t have their inter-county players training with them at all as they would spend the entire summer in full training mode for an autumn inter-county championship.

Inter-county panels are in collective training for the past couple of weeks. They’ll play the national league and to then tell them to disband and go back to their clubs is understandably too disruptive from any manager’s point of view.

One of the considerations when making the decision to play the suggested way was: “Given the fact that most club activity had ceased in August/September 2020, to consider running the inter-county championship directly after the Littlewoods Ireland camogie leagues would mean that club players would miss out on almost a full year of camogie.”

The thing is that for the past decade most players go through almost 12 months of no club championship action as it is.

Clubs might get a first round played in July and then everything goes on hold until Cork exits the All-Ireland series. If round two gets played in August and you’re beaten, then you’re out until next July again.

If it’s September, players would have had just one championship game in 12 months anyway.

But in between that, clubs would have their league to play and Cork had introduced a summer cup competition for clubs, which excluded inter-county players and gave clubs great games on summer evenings.

So, to rush in and tell clubs that they are to go straight to championship in late June when they’re not back training yet isn’t ideal.

CLUB PLAYERS' VIEWPOINT

Then again, the players polled initially were the WGPA and they are all inter-county players so of course they were going to vote for inter-county summer hurling.

Club members may equally want that, even though if they take what I’ve just said into consideration, it isn’t the ideal way to prepare for the championship if you’ve an eye on winning it.

The Association has now paused and is reaching out to all club members for their response, so we continue to wait with bated breath for the outcome of that.

Cork's Laura Hayes shoots from Wexford's Linda Bolger last season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Cork's Laura Hayes shoots from Wexford's Linda Bolger last season. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

Inter-county players just might get push-back on their disquiet and league boycott threat. At this stage, it’s just dragging on too long.

The LGFA have announced their fixtures in line with the GAA. That’s another thing; I thought both the camogie and LGFA were to harmonise more.

You can imagine that club camogie and football would be seriously impacted during the other codes' inter-county season if they are on opposite ends of the calendar.

Games would have clashed, and no inter-county manager is going to want his players playing a club game even a week before a championship game. The harmonisation needs to filter down to all levels.

What is key here is that we must have a split season. This year may be a bit manic, but certainly, for 2022 and onwards, club camogie needs to begin sooner than the third or fourth week in September.

The All-Ireland hurling final this year is set for August 22. If camogie does go inter-county first, I hope the camogie finals are August 21 or at least the 28 (day before the football final) and free up the whole of September.

The LGFA have taken the September 5 slot in what was typically the hurling final. The camogie finals were always the second Sunday in September. There is no need to hold that date now.

It’s too far out. Start the inter-county championship week on July 1 and have the finals on August 28.

And in 2022 let’s have the inter-county season finished by the end of July and let the clubs have the run of August, September and October.

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