JOHN FOGARTY: Provinces are not putting players first

God love Jarlath Burns for trying but in the wake of Louth manager Colin Kelly’s impassioned criticism of the six-day turnaround his team suffered on Saturday Burns’ attempt to justify it was never going to work.

“The GAA has done an awful lot to do away with the six-day turnaround and hopefully next year that will be sorted,” he said on The Sunday Game after Louth followed up their loss to Meath the previous weekend with another to Derry.

“But you have to understand the way fixtures work: the Leinster Council sets out its fixtures then the counties fit their club championships around it and the qualifiers are drawn. Now, if you are going to pull that Meath-Louth Leinster championship match back by one week, you’re going to affecting all the club players in Louth and Meath because there was a round of championship games in there.

“That was a decision made by Louth and Meath County Boards for their club players. And I applaud that because we’re always talking about the club player being always down because of the county scene and those counties said they’re putting their club players first.”

Had Louth actually started their county championship (it doesn’t begin until July 7) and Meath not played the last round of theirs back in the middle of May, Burns may have had a point. But had the Meath-Louth game taken place a week earlier, no club championship games would have been impacted.

The truth is Leinster’s scheduling has yet again hindered one of their counties in the All-Ireland SFC series. That number could well be doubled by the weekend after next with the likelihood being Meath will have to travel to Derry to keep their season alive. For the third year running, Leinster Council’s decision to play their football semi-finals as a double bill means a team must dust themselves off in a qualifier six days later. And just like 2014 and ’15, it’s the losers of the provincial game involving Dublin that will suffer.

Six days after Dublin put 5-18 past Kildare last June, the Lilywhites managed to recover to beat Offaly in their second round qualifier. In 2014, Wexford were beaten by Laois seven days after Dublin ushered them to the Leinster exit door. What Kildare managed was a small miracle; no team can be expected to right themselves so soon after tumbling out of a competition, and the long list of counties that have lost in such circumstances illustrates that.

Louth have pointed fingers at Croke Park but their angst should be redirected to Portlaoise and Leinster GAA headquarters.

The split qualifier system, introduced in 2014, was meant to cut the instances of six and seven-day turnarounds but the GAA didn’t legislate for Leinster scheduling their games as they have done over the last three seasons.

They are the exception. Bar replays, in the last three seasons none of Munster, Connacht and Leinster’s fixture arrangements have forced their counties to play so soon after exiting their province. Yes, Leinster have more fixtures to consider but it doesn’t give enough reason to compromise counties. And let’s not forget how the late rescheduling of the Dublin-Wexford hurling quarter-final discommoded club fixtures or how Galway’s hurlers, despite the fact they will be contesting their fifth provincial final in seven seasons, are treated as second-class citizens.

We’re going heavy on Leinster here but all provinces have been guilty of doing a disservice to their players at some stage. For Munster, it was the seeded SFC draw. The inordinate length of the Connacht SFC does few teams any good, while Ulster’s decision to wait until the weekend after next to stage the Cavan-Tyrone semi-final replay will throw the A side of the qualifiers out of kilter and mean the losers face the possibility of at least three games in as many weeks.

Only Connacht spoke in support of GAA director general Páraic Duffy’s plan at Congress earlier this year to add the facility of extra-time to all games apart from All-Ireland and provincial finals. Connacht secretary John Prenty asked delegates: “Are we about money or are we about care of our players, our club players?”

He received his answer when only 57.5% voted in favour of the motion despite Duffy highlighting replays made up less than 4% of gate receipts between 2010 and ’15.

Cork secretary Frank Murphy spoke against the removal of replays, saying the argument against them was selective and simplistic. That would be the case if scheduling was so simple. Munster had no choice but to fix Cork’s Munster SFC replay against Kerry last year the weekend before the would-be losers’ qualifier. And we all know how that ended.

This ongoing welfare issue is not on Croke Park. They are often held responsible when counties like Louth found themselves in such unjust situations but the real culprits reside down the chain of command.

The Leinster Council let down Kelly and his men. The county board too may have done more toforesee such a predicament that translates to the Division 3 winners now having to wait a full seven months until their next competitive game. What a shame.

Waterford don’t need hang-ups over venues

Provinces are not putting players first

Much has changed for Waterford hurling over the last 12 months. Last July, they turned up to Thurles intending to compete. Maybe they would admit next month they’ll be arriving in the Gaelic Grounds to win.

John Mullane’s attitude to Waterford’s choice of provincial venue has also altered in the same time-span.

Last year, he wrote that Waterford simply had to take on Tipperary in their own backyard, claiming it would show weakness not to take up the offer.

Fast forward to yesterday and he was singing a different tune: “As much as Waterford are comfortable playing in Thurles, I remember Tipperary captain Brendan Maher speaking after last year’s final and stating that there was no way they were going to lose on home soil.”

Mullane has every right to change his opinion but he was basing it on Tipperary’s attitude last summer. As the counties square up to one another again, it’s Waterford who would seem to have the extra incentive.

They should be the hungrier team after John O’Dwyer denied them victory last year and the Tipperary forward will now be missing through suspension on July 3.

The only people Waterford need to explain a switch to are their supporters who must make the longer journey to the Ennis Road venue and most of them should understand. If the view among Déise officials and management is the Gaelic Grounds offers them a better chance of claiming provincial glory and not an attractive sweetener for the board’s coffers, then that should be the end of it.

Were Cavan hip to be square?

Provinces are not putting players first

The plaudits were flowing for referee David Gough’s performance in Clones on Sunday. Although, we believe another inter-county manager, there in a watching brief, wasn’t so happy that one player was shown a yellow card instead of a red.

Certainly, on the basis of the ball crossing the line the decision to award a goal to Cavan’s Conor Moynagh was a great decision and showed good communication between Gough and his umpires.

However, with the benefit of replays, the defender looked to be in the rectangle before Raymond Galligan’s long free kick was touched his way.

There was also dubiousness about David Givney’s crucial second goal.

Givney appeared to jump from inside the area to meet Ciarán Brady’s looping hand-pass.

The rulebook states a player can’t be in the rectangle before the final play of the ball. While he can enter as soon as it has been touched, he mustn’t be there prior to it.

After the game, Mickey Harte praised Gough from on high.

“I think the referee did a good job, you didn’t get a free easy, we didn’t get them easy and they didn’t get them easy and that’s all you want in a referee. He was very consistent.”

On reviewing the video evidence, his opinion may have changed.

Email: john.fogarty@examiner.ie 


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