Former Cork star Patrick Kelly believes the GAA should consider an earlier start date for the All-Ireland finals as the club scene is “on its knees” nationwide.
A GAA fixtures calendar review taskforce is currently working on plans and proposals and Kelly believes the showpiece dates should be moved once more to give club championships — and players — the respect they deserve.
“As a club player I would be in favour of (the All-Ireland finals) coming further forward again. I appreciate the commercial side of things, but the club scene is on its knees,” Kelly, speaking on the Irish Examiner GAA Championship Podcast in association with Renault, said.
“Cork is unique and the GAA have to cater for the most complicated case and for me that’s the likes of Cork, or Galway, or Tipperary where there are strong dual clubs and a strong dual tradition.”
Kelly sees firsthand the issues facing his home club, Ballincollig, and he highlighted the issues facing club players over the summer months.
“As a club player we have to get right for April, which means going back and training hard from February, playing league games in March and April, and then you’re at a stage where you shut down for a couple of weeks. It’s just very, very hard to maintain interest, that’s my big bug-bear.”
GAA president John Horan has come under fire for trying to push through a number of changes to the Championship structure, not least the proposed Tier Two football championship, just after setting up the Fixtures Task Force.
Kelly believes Horan is being short-sighted, saying that “the CPA are banging the drum to fix the fixtures, how John Horan is doing it is it’s like a solo run for his legacy when he needs to look at the bigger picture — where do the colleges fit in, where does the U20s fit in, the club championships and all that.
“What baffles me is what John Horan is at, trying to make changes and moving things around, trying to bring in the two-tier championship when there’s a ten-man committee set up to look at the whole thing.”
Kelly also expressed sympathy for younger players, saying the lack of truly competitive fixtures over the summer months is killing off interest in committing to the game.
“It’s an absolute mess as a club player. It’s fine for me at this stage of my life, I’m happy enough to tip away during the summer but when you’re at your peak in your mid-20s and you’re getting nothing but league games when you know you’re still two-three months away from Championship is a farce.”
Also up for discussion on the Irish Examiner GAA Championship Podcast was the issue of dummy team selections in Gaelic games and the plight of the club player negotiating an inter-county focused calendar. Tune in on the Irish Examiner website, Soundcloud, and iTunes.