Club games must take priority

Let it never be said that replays aren’t nuisances.
Club games must take priority

A second meeting of Clare and Waterford in the space of seven days is as good for the coffers as it is broadcasters TG4 and possibly hurling as the counties have a further chance to redeem themselves after an at times torrid encounter on Sunday.

But there was a reason the facility of extra-time was applied to Sunday’s game. The GAA would have much preferred if the tie was decided there and then. So too RTÉ, who were set to launch their GAA championship coverage in Thurles next Sunday.

For GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail, it’s possibly a case of best-laid plans going awry. He had earmarked May 8 as the return of Lá na gClubanna, a day of festival devoted exclusively to clubs, after it was initially held in 2009 to celebrate the GAA’s 125-year anniversary.

Although the day has been commemorated by some clubs ever since, the intention this year was to make a concerted effort nationwide.

Clubs had been encouraged to keep the date free from competitive game activity and host events such as blitzes, poc fada competitions, Scór events and tree-planting ceremonies. The role of the GAA’s core unit in the community was to be underlined.

“The rationale behind holding our club days on the same date is to make a connection between all of our clubs, big and small, rural and urban at home and abroad,” said Ó Fearghail.

“In many ways this type of unified activity will provide the GAA as a whole with a strong voice, once again highlighting the vibrancy and energy that pulses from club to club.”

The Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) had been directed not to schedule any inter-county games for that day. All Leinster SHC qualifying, Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard, and Lory Meagher Cup matches will take place on Saturday.

The Division 1 final replay would be the fly in the ointment if it weren’t that Waterford had pencilled in championship fixtures for next Sunday. A total of four first-round games were to take place. But the indifference towards Lá na gClubanna isn’t exclusive to the Déise. Little did he know it at the time but Limerick hurler Cian Lynch, who helped the GAA launch Lá na gClubanna back in early February, will be lining out with Patrickswell in a championship game against Adare in Bruff next Sunday evening.

Like in Waterford, Limerick intend staging four first-round clashes. Tyrone veteran Joe McMahon, who was pictured alongside Lynch at the same event, will likely be involved with Omagh St Enda’s as they take on Clonoe in a league game.

Cork appear to have got the message loud and clear from on high — aside from one senior, premier intermediate and intermediate game, all their football championship fixtures for the forthcoming weekend will take place on Friday and Saturday.

Likewise in Kerry, there is just one junior football championship game down for decision on Sunday. Dublin also looks free from adult activity although there is a bevy of under-age games arranged for Sunday. There is also little to report in Kilkenny.

However, Tipperary have nine senior hurling championship matches to be decided on top of intermediate and junior action. In Galway, there are matches across the senior and intermediate hurling grades including three in the senior championship.

Even without the distraction of the Division 1 final replay, there are several county boards thumbing their noses at the Lá na gClubanna concept. As genuine as the principle is, it is also fanciful. May is just too good a month weather-wise to sacrifice even one weekend day of competitive games.

While many club players prefer to play on Saturday, allowing them Sunday free to recover in time for work on Monday morning, to give up one pre inter-county championship Sunday flies in the face of the rhetoric about providing clubs with meaningful space in the season. Can anyone imagine Lá na gClubanna existing if the calendar year was in place?

If Tipperary are to avoid the fixtures pile-up they have suffered to varying extents in recent years, they must simply use what they have at their disposal and this Sunday is an asset. Waterford, who ran into fixtures trouble last year, already find themselves in a spot of bother having had their hurling championship schedule disrupted by another visit to Thurles. Limerick’s run of three consecutive weekends of championship hurling suits both officials and the senior county management.

Their decisions to run games this Sunday were grounded in realism.

They aren’t stopping clubs celebrating their existence but if the show must go on, then so too must games. Besides, is there any better way to celebrate a club than cheering them on?

Email: john.fogarty@examiner.ie 

GPA may have overplayed hand

Last week, we brought you news of the GPA’s attempts to convince the Government to sign up to a new multi-million funding structure. In part return, high-profile players would become the poster boys of campaigns such as road safety, child obesity, and tourism.

The GPA has been involved in supporting several genuine causes effectively pro-bono so it was unusual to discover they were attempting to gain financial support for backing issues such as child obesity and road safety. Tourism is an exception; the GPA are right to make a pitch to the Government given the unique role players could have as potential cultural ambassadors.

It doesn’t help that while the GPA’s discussions with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport have been put on hold because of the election, they are also trying to negotiate a new permanent funding agreement with the GAA. All the while, we’re seeing the GPA post pointed messages on Twitter such as: “What is the value of an inter-county player? Gate receipts, sponsorship, broadcasting rights...”

The GPA are fighting on two fronts and in each case, they have made some pretty ambitious proposals. They may have overplayed their hand.

Why can’t U20 championship match success of doomed U21 tournament?

Mourning for the soon-to-pass U21 All-Ireland football championship began before Saturday’s absorbing final with two fine semi-finals and some high-quality provincial games. And events in Ennis intensified the sense of sadness about its impending doom.

There is a strong school of thought the GAA shot themselves in the foot by agreeing to replace the U21 competition with a developmental U20 one from 2018. That it wasn’t broken in the first place and the excellence of this year’s games only serves to show that it shouldn’t be removed.

Admittedly, the U20 All-Ireland championship is a compromise. GAA director general Páraic Duffy initially wanted U21 scrapped altogether because of how it was adding to a clustered fixtures calendar, impacting clubs and burdening young players.

One of the stipulations of the U20 competition, which will run concurrently with the senior championship, is that no player involved in a senior panel will be eligible for it.

Were Saturday’s final in 2018, Cork would likely be without Stephen Cronin and Peter Kelleher, and Mayo Stephen Coen and Diarmuid O’Connor.

Even without those marquee players, there would have been enough talent on show to promise excitement. Not only that, the added profile of being run in parallel with the senior championship could be conducive to strengthening the standard of football.

There were authentic reasons behind the call to amend the U21 championship.

They shouldn’t be forgotten even if it’s so easy to on the evidence of recent matches. Its substitute could be just as worthy.

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