Cork GAA: Is the calendar too packed for the best young talent?

Rising hurling and football stars are facing burnout while trying to balance county, college and club games 
Cork GAA: Is the calendar too packed for the best young talent?

Cork and UL hurler Brian O'Sullivan on Fitzgibbon Cup duty. Picture: Michael P Ryan/Sportsfile

AT the start of the season, you would think that scoring 19 points would be enough to get the Cork footballers a win in the Allianz Division 2 campaign but are demanding schedules for players taking a toll on their performances.

It was evidentially clear that coach John Cleary was disappointed after the match, but he is also working with a panel that had 14 players involved in the Sigerson cup last week.

We must remember that while these athletes are attempting to balance inter-county with jobs and lifestyle, most are still only at college. This is an incredible number of players that make a direct impact into the efficiency of this Cork outfit, and it's not just affected the Rebels.

If you look back at the history of college competitions, you can see the effects this delicate balance between university and county GAA has had.

Tommy Conroy suffered a cruciate ligament injury playing Sigerson for NUI Galway two days after he line out for Mayo. Kerry duo Tony Brosnan and Jack Savage came on in the McGrath Cup match a few hours after both played Sigerson Cup for MTU Kerry.

Dundalk IT pulled out of the Trench Cup Final, the second-tier football competition, citing player burnout. Is a team pulling out of a final not enough to send the message through to the powers at be to change the structure of college GAA to reflect player welfare?

Inter-county bosses ultimately get the final say in the decision to release players for college games, so would it not benefit both organisations if the games constantly didn’t overlap?

UCC’s Dylan Geaney in the Sigerson Cup. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy
UCC’s Dylan Geaney in the Sigerson Cup. Picture: INPHO/Evan Treacy

If you consider the format of university-level GAA which begins in the depths of winter, players are almost competing all year round and are expected to perform weekly.

Is the GAA putting too much pressure on their inter-county teams to play league games in January while most of their squads are being used elsewhere?

Numerous university managers have vented their frustrations at the current scheduling. Shift it to December, some suggested. Play it without inter-county players. In response, colleges point the finger at the unyielding decrees imposed by the county game.

In a survey completed by The42 last year, in which 31 inter-county players commented on how important college competitions are to them.

90% of these players agreed that the competitions themselves are very important to them with a further 90% saying the competitions should stand alone in the GAA calendar.

This is another headache faced by the organisers as there are only 52 weeks in the year and games will always have to be played no matter how it affects the individual player. This issue will never be fixed with one solution, but player welfare must be of the utmost importance in the eyes of both county and college GAA bosses.

No athlete should not be expected to travel countless hours home for training so that they can complete a gym session rather than resting.

The choice of college is even affected due to the struggles of trying to keep everything going.

Both university and county teams will always be affected by this congested calendar. No matter what way the tables turn players will always have an overlap.

The problem remains within all the competitions that there are too many players playing county, college, and club games all at the same time.


Player welfare and the mindsets of these athletes must be at the forefront of this conversation as they are the most important people in this issue and sometimes their concerns are shoved to the side.

MTU Cork's Ryan O'Donovan dejected after the loss to DCU. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
MTU Cork's Ryan O'Donovan dejected after the loss to DCU. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

We all want the best games and performances week in and week out from athletes that may burn out come the summer months, which is a time they should be coming to their peak.

Player burnout is a real problem and one that many athletes face alone in the boiling point of all these games.

If you lay all the cards on the table around this issue you’ve got a difficult hand no matter what way you play it.

It is about cooperation and collaboration as much as it is administration. Someone needs to facilitate that. Drive it and there is a body equipped to do so.

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