'Lack' of GAA action is only if you're not looking for it

Club championships will flourish now that they have to room to breathe
'Lack' of GAA action is only if you're not looking for it

Clonakilty's Tom Clancy sends the ball goalwards in Sunday's Bons Secours Hospital Cork Premier SFC game in Rosscarbery, with the large crowd visible behind him. Picture Dan Linehan

The Cork senior football team played just one championship game in each of 1991 and 1992.

Then, from 1993-97 inclusive, the county hurling side played one match in four of those five summers – 1995 was the exception, when they beat Kerry before losing to Clare.

It was a formative period for me – I went from being a six-year-old to almost a teenager – but the lack of inter-county action didn’t feel like a drought. There were Kilbrittain matches in the county IHC to attend and Carbery were going well in the senior hurling, losing the 1993 final after a replay and then winning in 1994 (incidentally, that year’s final, 1995 and 1996 were all played in September). Beyond those, there were plenty more club games to go to.

On Sunday night in Rosscarbery, the young children up by the wire in their Castlehaven and Clonakilty kits were asking each other if they had seen the All-Ireland final but it was passing conversation as they were gripped by the action in front of them.

There have been a few arguments for a longer inter-county season put forward by pundits – generally those paid handsomely to talk about inter-county games – and one of those is the ‘promotion’ afforded by children being back in school for All-Ireland final time, even though by definition only a maximum of four counties can benefit from that. Turn it on its head though and ask, how many children could go to a 7pm game on a Sunday if the schools weren’t on holidays?

Speaking after the game, Castlehaven manager James McCarthy agreed that it was great for such a game to be played in July rather than September or October.

“A hundred percent, and you see the crowd at it,” he said.

“I’d say it would have been a bigger crowd again if it wasn’t All-Ireland final day, everybody was wrecked after watching such a great game!”

Later that evening on The Sunday Game, Marty Morrissey commented to GAA President Larry McCarthy that the men’s championship seasons were over but, before he could continue, the Bishopstown native interjected that it was the inter-county season that was over and the club campaign, catering for the 98 percent silent majority, was only just beginning.

Obviously, you can say that, as someone whose job it is to report on club games as well as inter-county, my interests are as vested as the RTÉ people who major in the big matches, but in anything it’s surely better to work on a bottom-up rather than top-down approach.

To borrow a metaphor often used by the sports editor, club matches are the bread and butter and inter-county is the jam on top. Nobody benefits from having a rich diet every day.

Ask most die-hards if they’d prefer their club to win a county championship or their county to win the All-Ireland and it’s likelier that they’d plump for local joy.

For too long, the club season had been treated like a second-class citizen, with games in April and then cold storage until the inter-county action had ceased. Now, with a proper calendar, it can be front and centre – if anyone is truly bereft at the lack of county matches over the next couple of months, it will offer quite the consolation.

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