Brennan: Counties and colleges must compromise

FORMER GAA president Nickey Brennan says neither a county nor a college should be able to lay outright claim to their players for pre-season competitions.

Brennan heads up the association’s third level committee, which has delivered a report to the Management Committee and Central Council in which they propose provincial councils facilitate agreements between county and college managements over the availability of players.

The Ulster Council this past week voted to approve the request of seven Tyrone players to represent the county over the respective colleges in next month’s McKenna Cup.

However, Brennan insisted there has to be compromise between the players’ county and colleges.

“What we’re saying is there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ solution for everybody and maybe there are reasons why the student can play for his county,” said the Kilkenny man.

“Common sense has to prevail and it’s a matter of trying to achieve a happy medium between the college and the county. We found it was a matter for the provincial councils to facilitate dialogue between the parties.

“But no side should take the view that ‘we’re taking them all and the other side get nothing’. That’s not a tenable situation. Where there is proper dialogue there will be an amicable situation.”

The universities are believed to be deeply disappointed by the action taken in Tyrone and also in Antrim where at least two players have made themselves unavailable to their place of study for the McKenna Cup.

One Ulster university in particular have written off their chances in the competition because they are down so many of their inter-county players and there’s talk of colleges pulling out of it entirely in 2013.

Brennan recognises emerging players should be able to choose to play for their county if they feel their best opportunity to break into the set-up is in January. On the other hand, he appreciates student players might feel a duty to represent their colleges especially if they are receiving GAA scholarships towards their education.

“The issue of bursaries for students in colleges is more important than ever in the current economic climate and the cost of third level education.

“Some of them are there in the colleges thanks to the bursaries and the colleges in turn would expect an allegiance. It would be most unfortunate if a county manager forced them to play for their county.”

Brennan can also understand the merit of colleges playing in predominantly inter-county pre-season competitions.

“The competitions are used as preparations for the Sigerson Cup but if a college does well or even wins one it helps their profile.

“Colleges are under pressure to get students into colleges and sometimes it can influence the next generation of young people coming it.

“It’s a public relations matter too and it’s fair to say a lot of colleges GAA set-ups are more prominent than their rugby and soccer teams and they want to keep it that way.”

Brennan pointed out the conflict is almost entirely a football one.

“Hurling managers are quite happy to see their players play Fitzgibbon Cup. They see it as a trial area where if they play with aplomb they could be given their opportunity with the county.

“In football there’s an element of confrontation with the managers. Maybe if they all just sat down and saw each other’s point of view things would run more smoothly.”

Meanwhile, he revealed the committee recommended to retain the scheduling of the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups in February and March and not switching it to a pre-Christmas period.

“There is a good amount of rational in not supporting that,” he said.

“It’s until October that the GAA clubs in the colleges are organised and then their leagues begin.

“Then there’s the semesterisation of some colleges which means a lot of the players are doing exams in December and January. It’s just not practical to be playing prestigious competitions at that time of year.

“County managers might put more pressure on players to train but the college would generally take a view that if they’re doing exams maybe sometimes they can’t play for the college.”

Brennan was also aware of suggestions of hosting the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup finals in Croke Park under lights in December.

However, he argued that colleges and their localities take great honour in staging the final weekends and bring people together in the amount of organisational work that has to be done for them.”

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