UCC Gaelic games development officer John Grainger has described the GAA’s decision to shoehorn third level fixtures into tighter schedules as “short-sighted”.
As the Sigerson Cup looks set to be run off over 18 days in January 2020 in contrast to 36 across January and February earlier this year when there was a backdoor, Grainger has joined his fellow officer in CIT and Cork’s U20 football manager Keith Ricken in querying the call.
“It’s short-sighted to go with a fixtures calendar without looking at the broader implications of it. Keith Ricken said it well last week - it’s not just about playing games but looking after players physically and mentally. I think we’re missing something here.
“You saw the GPA survey last week of all the different pressures on students. They have exams and then everybody seems to want a bit of them and I’m just wondering if the enjoyment of playing these games is going.
“We put up a tweet last week asking are third-level games now irrelevant? Is there goodwill for third-level? Is there an acknowledgement a lot of money has been put into GAA facilities at third-level?
“You take CIT who have three floodlit pitches and UCC are behind them in that but there are plans to build a new sports park near the Curraheen Road to cover all sports but might there not be any GAA pitches out there because the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups are going to be sidelined? And does it boil down to common sense that players can only do so much as the inter-county training regime starts earlier and earlier every year?”
Grainger also raises the issue of a growing number of inter-county players on scholarships not lining out for third level teams. Across the country, colleges and universities are playing major roles in developing Gaelic players but he wonders if that recognition is there when the fixtures are outlined as they are.
“Look at the amount of players that have gone through UCC and CIT who are on senior inter-county panel at the moment - there were 16 or so players who came to UCC on the Cork senior hurling panel for the All-Ireland quarter-final third year. You can turn around and say UCC are preparing these guys for inter-county but they’re also preparing them for club games.
“There is big public interest in third level football and hurling and look at quality of mentors that are available now, the likes of Billy Morgan in UCC, Keith Ricken in CIT. Whether they win the competition or not, it’s immaterial but it gives them an introduction into a great standard of coaching and that can only benefit our teams. We have to get our arse in gear and come to a situation where third-level colleges play their competitions."