Call for 25-player cap for county squads

A SENIOR GAA official has called for inter-county squads to be reduced to a maximum of 25 players in an effort to boost club championships around the country.

Paddy Naughton, President of the Connacht Council, said that many fringe players on inter-county squads exist in a “Bermuda Triangle” where they see little action with county teams but yet can’t line out for their clubs. The Mayo official said that players can be drafted into county squads throughout the year but that the squad should never exceed 25 players.

“I think 25 players is the maximum any panel should house. Once you go beyond that number, you create the anomaly whereby some players sit in a kind of twilight zone – a Bermuda Triangle, if you like.

“In this zone, they don’t play for the county – and neither do they play for the club. They can spend the entire summer with very little competitive action, and yet their involvement with the county can cause untold disruption to club fixtures.

“It’s something we need to look at if we are to cater for the club players who, we should not forget, form 99% of our playing population,” he said.

Naughton, who made his comments in ‘Into The West’, the Connacht GAA magazine, was also critical of inter-county managers.

“County managers can be too quick to insist on long ‘freeze periods’ before county games. Players like to play and we should let them play. You can’t wrap them up in cotton wool. It is inevitable that some players will get injured. Those injuries can be sustained in the white heat of a Croke Park battle – or in a simple training game,” added Naughton.

Meanwhile the adverse weather conditions have created a fixtures headache for Munster Council officials as they attempt to run off the McGrath Cup senior football competition before the start of the National Football League on February 7.

The recent cold snap caused the postponement of the three preliminary round games that were pencilled in for last Sunday, and the attempts to re-fix the game between Limerick and Waterford IT for tonight in the Gaelic Grounds, and the meeting of Kerry and IT Tralee tomorrow night in Austin Stack Park, have also been foiled by the weather.

Both matches, along with the preliminary round fixture between Tipperary and UL, have now been fixed for Sunday, January 10.

That date had originally been slated for the quarter-finals of the competition, but they will now be staged on January 17, with the semi-finals on January 24 and the final on January 31. But Munster Council PRO Jim Forbes admitted yesterday that the weather could cause havoc with their fixture plans again.

“We’ve had no choice but to change things around because we simply couldn’t play games last Sunday or during this week. Unfortunately the forecast doesn’t look great for the rest of the week. We’ll continue to monitor the situation as the week goes on and hopefully we’ll be able to get the competition up and running this Sunday.”

The other provincial pre-season competitions also begin this weekend with, weather permitting, eight games scheduled for the O’Byrne Cup in Leinster, six matches in the Dr McKenna Cup in Ulster and four games in the FBD Connacht League.

Saturday January 9th: O’Byrne Cup: Laois v Dublin IT, Graiguecullen, 7:30pm. Dr McKenna Cup: Section A: Monaghan v UUJ, Inniskeen, 5pm; Section B: Tyrone v Cavan, Omagh, 7pm.

Sunday January 10th: (All Games at 2pm) McGrath Cup Preliminary Round: Tipperary v UL, Sean Treacy Park, Tipperary Town; Kerry v IT Tralee, Austin Stack Park; Limerick v Waterford IT, Kilmallock.

O’Byrne Cup First Round: Kildare v UCD, Newbridge; Carlow v Athlone IT, Dr Cullen Park; Wicklow v Louth, Baltinglass; Dublin v Wexford, Parnell Park; Longford v Meath, Ballymahon; Kilkenny v Offaly, Kilkenny; Westmeath v DCU, Mullingar.

Dr McKenna Cup: Section A: Armagh v Fermanagh, Athletic Grounds. Section B: Donegal v St Mary’s, Ballybofey. Section C: Derry v Down, Celtic Pk; Antrim v Queens University, Casement Pk.

FBD Connacht League: Group A: Sligo IT v Roscommon, Ballinode; Mayo v NUIG, Garrymore. Group B: Galway v Sligo, Tuam Stadium; Leitrim v GMIT, Cloone.

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