Waterford senior hurling manager Liam Cahill says anyone who expects county managers to adhere to the September 14 training restart is naive.
Cahill accepts county bosses will have to work closer with clubs as a result of the season restructure so as to ensure players avoid burnout.
However, he expects county panels will meet for training sessions prior to the official start date because of the abbreviated run-in before the inter-county season resumes on October 17.
“It’s something to work towards and it’s great that it has come but it’s going to be a big ask of inter-county managers to amalgamate things with the club scene and making sure that it works well for both parties,” says the two-time All-Ireland U20 winning manager.
“It’s going to be a fairly intense number of weeks right through from club to senior inter-county. It’s going to present its challenges, for sure. County managers might just have to taper their preparations and ease some of the rigidness as regards allowing players to go back to their clubs and doing away from that regimental side of it.
The one thing that can’t happen but could happen is county players getting caught in the crossfire between club and county. That’s what the current roadmap presents, a big difficulty in managing that and ensuring you’re true to your word to allow players back to their clubs where they belong and allowing them to prepare properly with their clubs but also to keep their focus on their county.
“There are restrictions there until September and it leaves a very short window for the inter-county player to prepare. If anybody is naive enough to think that inter-county managers are not going to try and assemble their players on the odd occasion during that period (before September) well then they’re really not in tune with what’s going on.
“The big obstacle we can see is the county teams not being able to assemble until mid-September. With a Championship possibly starting in October, it makes it really difficult.
The GAA maintain they have been working off the basis of the Government’s roadmap but Cahill notices deviations.
“I know under the current circumstances it’s very difficult to get things right but in a more general scenario, 15 people can assemble to train as of now.
“Under the GAA rules, only 10 can and not until the end of the month so as good as it is to get some clarity what the GAA are doing is still not in tandem with what the Government are doing. You just wonder what the logic is behind it.”
As the Central Competitions Control Committee begin this week to formulate a revised national fixtures calendar, Cahill hopes they opt for a qualifier system ahead of a straight knock-out format.
“We can only play the cards we’re dealt and if it’s going to be into October then it’s into so-called winter hurling and so be it - there’s nothing we can do about that at this stage. I’d like to see us going back to the old format where if you’re beaten in the province you’ve one more chance and leave it at that.
“I think that would be a fair championship under the circumstances. You make your Munster championship draw and if you’re beaten you go into a qualifier and if you’re bet a second time you’re gone. Particularly if they’re going to play it right up to Christmas, I think that’s only fair. We just have to wait and see what vision they have for the Championship now. The hand is in the dog’s mouth, really.”
Cahill hasn’t too many worries about getting his Waterford players physically right for October but plenty can happen before then, he warns.
“The last number of years the county player has been accustomed to almost keeping themselves ticking over the whole year around.
“From a physical perspective, it mightn’t be all that hard to get ready but the biggest thing is the mental side of it and preparing for a Championship in different conditions and taking into account what might happen between now and when the championship starts with the club scene and the risk of injuries and burnout and making sure we’re not banging heads with the clubs.
“Getting them back out onto the field and ready will be the least of our worries. So inter-county managers will just plough on and it won’t bother them, they’ll just lay down the rules and that will be it and the player will be available whenever he’s told, but it has to be managed correctly with this format so that everybody gets a fair chance. We have been deprived of so much over the last two to three months that you have to be fair when we do start back.”