Inter-county managers should not be allowed to interfere in a club championship period if the GAA returns to play with clubs first, insists Club Players Association (CPA) chairman Micheál Briody.
Describing it as “what would be the ultimate kick in the face”, Briody was commenting as the GAA are set to publish their “return to safe” protocols. The organisation are hoping for club action to return at some stage next month although the provincial inter-county championships could follow that early as September.
What also concerns Briody is the potential removal of the 2020-21 provincial and All-Ireland club championships, which has been reported for a number of weeks.
Safety remains the priority for the CPA but the sovereignty of the club period, should it come first, must be respected, says the Meath man.
“The clubs are not going to be too happy if they are squeezed too tightly to rush out championships so that it’s all done and dusted. But more importantly if there is going to be club championships first and there is an agreement from everybody that it is safe to do so, well all inter-county managers can’t have access to those players until the championships are over.
"That would be the only fair way. If they’re really talking about clubs be first and foremost that’s the least they could do. That would be the biggest reservation for us.
“The other concern we would have is the idea that the provincial and All-Ireland club championships could be shelved. We have to see whatever sacrifices the inter-county season is making and I agree that there has to be compromise on both sides but it cannot be significantly on the club side.
“For county champions, provincial and All-Ireland titles are prized and potentially scrapping it is not something we would support albeit it would be certainly challenging to organise them in the timeframe.”
Staging the inter-county championships first would avoid that scenario but Briody is undecided about it.
“I know you can’t have it both ways. If inter-county comes first you can run it off and leave the rest of the year to the club but there will be difficulties with crowds going to inter-county games and players could be tested if required. Clubs would be keen to go back but maybe leagues might be an idea at that time.
“What you don’t want is tokenism, is saying ‘yeah, we’re rewarding clubs by going back with them first with a championship where inter-county players aren’t training with their clubs’. That would be a kick in the face to club football and hurling if they’re not available for both matches and training.
“I’m not saying it’s easy for one minute. We’re dealing with a short space of time but a quick club championship is not something we could support nor the lack of reward with no provincial and All-Ireland. Running off county championships without county players training with their clubs would be the ultimate kick in the face to clubs after all they have done for the people of Ireland during the Covid-19 crisis.”
The possibility of an eight-week club championship period also raises issues for dual players and Briody expects knockout in both codes will be the proposal.
“They have to respect and put in place reasonable space for clubs to have championships. Some counties will seriously have to abbreviate their championships because the time is just not there. In Meath, there is quite a lot of dual players and it’s difficult to run the football championship while hurling is still going and you go the likes of Cork, Galway, Dublin, Tipp and it would be felt.
“I’m assuming they will put in the space for that and that will probably mean knock-out in both codes. The bigger thing is they have to put an official starting point to inter-county training and stick to it if club goes first.”