With the Kerry club championship finals fixed for next weekend, the county league action took centre-stage on Saturday and Sunday.

Though Kerry wouldn’t play a Munster championship semi-final against either Clare or Limerick until June 3, no player involved with the county squad was released to play those games.

It is not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things as rightly or wrongly the clubs are used to playing league football without their county men.

But at the moment, there is an unusually high number of players tied up with the extended county panel. We (Kerins O’Rahillys) were down our five county panellists and drew with An Gaeltacht who were minus two last Saturday evening. Dingle were missing another six or seven as were Dr Crokes, with plenty of other clubs impacted across the county.

I’ve repeatedly made the point the games’ schedule for clubs in Kerry is as good as what exists in any county in Ireland. We’ll play well over 20 club games, starting in late January and finishing in early October at the latest. Those fixtures are confirmed and provided to clubs early in the year and do not change. That provides the kind of certainty that enables players to organise their lives outside the game; they can plan holidays, weekends away, go to concerts or whatever else they want to do around an unchangeable schedule.

Following the hectic spell in late March and early April, where we had three club championship games in consecutive weekends followed by county league last weekend, we don’t now have another game for three weeks.

With that in mind, we decided to give our players the next week and half off to allow them to go away and recharge the batteries.

After that, we have a game coming almost every fortnight for the rest of the summer. It’s an ideal scenario for club players, with regular games running all the way up to the start of our county championship competition in September.

But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why those players who were training with their county over the weekend couldn’t have been playing competitive games for their clubs six weeks from the opening provincial championship game.

Of course, Éamonn Fitzmaurice and his management need time to prepare their troops for the upcoming Munster campaign, and this is obviously a very fractured period with so much club activity going on, but they still have a month and half to plot and plan.

Mayo are only three weeks away from their showdown with Galway and their players were playing league football for their clubs last weekend. Monaghan are doing something similar and making sure they incorporate their ‘star’ rounds into league competition to ensure they have their county players for a number of games that carry extra points.

Dublin have shut down county training for a few weeks and even provided us with the unusual sight of Stephen Cluxton playing centre-back for his club Parnell’s against St Sylvester’s in the club championship last weekend.

The problem as I see it is with this whole notion of the county management ‘releasing players’ back to their clubs.

If you ask me, and within reason of course, it should be the other way around. Clubs will eventually have to stand up and say ‘no, we’re not releasing our players to train with the county when we have a club game at the same time’.

Obviously, once you get within a two or three week window of an inter-county championship game, nobody has an issue with players sitting out club games to mind their bodies and get enough rest and recovery. Nobody wants to see the players caught in the middle and getting flogged trying to serve two masters.

But it only makes sense to allow guys to play as many games as they can get, within reason, especially players towards the back end of the county squad, and if clubs continue to be ignored on this issue up and down the country, they will eventually need to rise up to fight their corner more vehemently that they are at the moment.

It would be great for all counties, and for the association in general, if players involved with the county panels were more accessible to their clubs and communities. It really shouldn’t be that difficult a situation to remedy and ensure all county players are available for at least four rounds of league action with their club every season. In Kerry, that’s about all we’re missing from having an ideal club scenario.

S

peaking of a situation worth remedying, I thought it was hugely inappropriate of Mickey Harte and the others within the ‘Gaelic athletes for no vote’ group to try to use the GAA as a vehicle to advance their beliefs on the upcoming referendum on the Eight Amendment.

Campaign for whichever side you wish, vote whatever way you want, your beliefs on the issue are of no concern of mine.

If Mickey Harte, Paddy McGrath or anybody else wants to campaign for one side over the other, that is their right.

However, to organise a launch event in a GAA club in Dublin is an unacceptable muddying of the waters in my view.

On Sunday, Croke Park issued a statement that they were writing to every county board secretary to clarify their position; that the GAA is not to play any role in campaigning for either side of the referendum.

One would assume that clarification was made in direct response to the link and statement made by ‘Gaelic athletes for a no vote’.

Any further deliberate attempt by either side to blur that distinction between the individual and the association should be dealt with in the strongest possible way by Croke Park.

The GAA has enough issues of its own, without being walked into a minefield not of its making.


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