GPA chairman Seamus Hickey has confirmed that two inter-county squads were prepared not to play their rescheduled league games on Monday before unplayable pitches forced the fixtures to be postponed for a second time.
Hickey would not reveal the sides but reiterated the GPA’s statement on Sunday that the official inter-county players’ body had given them their full support to take such action due to a lack of consultation about the 24-hour turnaround from when the weather-affected games were originally scheduled to take place.
“It wasn’t so much strike action as being unable to fulfil fixtures,” he said.
“We were contacted by two squads who notified us they wouldn’t be fulfilling the fixtures after the postponements. They had discussed it internally and with their management teams and they had support from their management teams.
"These teams had players committed to their employers on the bank holiday and it would have required annual leave or, in some instances, not being able to get annual leave and they made a decision as a group to fulfil the fixture. We’d another couple of squads who were dismayed by the arrangement and being given 24-hour notice.”
Involved with Limerick against Clare in their Division 1 quarter-final, Hickey himself experienced the hasty re-arrangement of fixtures.
He said four players in their squad had to cancel arrangements to make themselves available for the game on the bank holiday Monday and they were also missing backroom members because of the alteration.
"It was an inconvenience for us, it was an inconvenience on our management, it was an inconvenience on all our support team. They were very difficult circumstances, especially when there was no discussion. We were told, ‘This is happening’."
Hickey said the GPA have been speaking with the GAA since the Monday re-fixtures. “The CCCC (Central Competitions Control Committee) aren’t open to us as a group and it’s a pity a lot of the time because of the effect they have on players. We acknowledged in our statement that the inclement weather threw up challenges for everybody and you can’t foresee these things.
“But the long and short of it is amateur players can’t be expected, at the drop of a hat, to turn around on a day’s notice without any sort of consultation. What we’re asking is more consideration be given to players.”
Hickey believes the GAA’s new season schedule is already in trouble. “We did vote against it primarily because of a lack of consultation with stakeholders, ourselves. It wasn’t undertaken at any point in the restructuring of the football championship. While we supported the hurling championship rejig because our players backed the format, the club-only month was flagged as an issue as to how it was actually going to play out or would it be enforced.
“We said we would review it at the end of the year to see how it went. We’re not even in April and we’ve seen some serious issues. Lads still have careers and lives outside of the game. They have to be given consideration especially in terms of the championship where they will be playing so many back-to-back.”
Meanwhile, Hickey admitted he found the nature of Limerick’s win over Clare on Monday evening “strange” and is not keen on the free-taking play-off deciding games.
“I was in favour of the proposals to finish games on the day. I saw it as a positive thing. The mechanism for it? I didn’t know what shape it was going to take. I found the free-taking a bit strange. Even the position of the frees in front of the goals with nobody else on the field is a bit bizarre. Yes, there is a skill level involved but that comes down to pressure and mental toughness rather than skill.
“I don’t think it was skill that won the game for us. We were fortunate to get to the second periods of extra-time. With just five players of our panel involved in it, it was odd. I wasn’t terrifically enamoured with it.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.