By Daragh Ó Conchúir
Tomás Ó Flatharta believes that a reduced season with more games would benefit county teams while also ensuring that clubs are no longer marginalised by the GAA calendar.
The Laois manager is currently preparing his team for a local derby with Kildare in the Leinster championship but argues that while a restructured season might reduce the potential for domestic battles, it would lead to an overall rise in standards.
“My view on the way the Championship is today is I think we’d be way better off if we had a shorter season, first of all to give lads time to play with their clubs” said Ó Flatharta last evening. “There’s a lot of time dedicated to training instead of to games and there’s a big gap.
“Some teams have to wait 11 or 12 weeks for games and I don’t think it’s fair on lads to train that length of time between League and Championship. You need to be having games all of the time.
“You’re still at times going to get local rivalries and all of that but I would be in favour of having more games for teams overall rather than having two Championship games in a year. I don’t think teams can improve themselves if the structure that we have goes on for years and years and years. I think it might be no harm if there was a serious, serious look at that.
“There are other things that come into play here as well like the sponsorship. Sponsors like to have as much time in the year as they can... It’s not so straightforward to say ‘We should do this and we should do that’ with fixtures.”
Although a selector when Westmeath famously won the Leinster title in 2004, Ó Flatharta would not be bothered by the dilution or dissolution of the provincial championships.
“It doesn’t matter to me. The more games that teams can have, the more that teams are going to improve. I wouldn’t be too hung up on the province thing.”
A former pundit with TG4, Ó Flatharta would not be drawn on the perception that the level of analysis has become increasingly negative in recent years.
“Everybody’s entitled to their views. Whatever people say or people write about, I have no control over that as a manager so that doesn't bother me. I don't let it distract me.
“I know that certain things were said in the media about certain people during the week. I think that's up to those media companies or whatever networks they are, that's up to them to deal with those situations and not up to the likes of me to do anything about that. I think they have to have their own standards and they have to sort those things out themselves.
“I don't do any punditry while I'm managing teams. I don't do that for inter-county games because all my focus is on Laois football at the moment and I feel that if I was doing that I would be giving views on counties that I would be playing against and I don't want to compromise myself in those situations.”
The Kerry native reported a largely clean bill of health ahead of the Kildare tie.
“The only injury concern we have and it’s going to be long term now is Paul Begley. He’s had trouble with his hip all through the year. He had to step aside last week and will probably need surgery on it. He tried it out last week but he had no power on it.
“Other than that we’re okay. We had a few earlier on in the year but they’re cleared up now. Hopefully now it’ll continue on like that up until Saturday week.”