Cork GAA legend Denis Coughlan has called on the GAA to take action against counties who don’t sufficiently use the 11-week club window.
Coughlan recently joined the Club Players Association (CPA) national executive committee, which have today said the GAA must use its rulebook to “protect the time allocated to clubs” between July 31 and October 11 and ensure there is parity of esteem with the county game so as to avoid long-term damage to the organisation.
The CPA have also requested the GAA’s management committee uses their temporary powers so that inter-county players are not “asked or coerced” to train with inter-county teams before the conclusion of their club championships.
Their statement comes as more counties are choosing to organise senior county finals well before October 11 and closer to September 14 when inter-county panels are permitted to resume collective training.
Coughlan believes the least clubs deserve is time after what they contributed in tackling the coronavirus crisis since March.
Although the GAA have suggested it would be “an insult” to counties were Croke Park to determine club championship structures and schedules for them, the five-time All-Ireland winner stresses some counties could be abdicating their responsibilities to their clubs.
“I think Croke Park have been very fair in giving counties 11 weeks to run off their county championships. Some counties are squeezing the time for the clubs to frankly make way for the managers of the county teams so they can spend more time with them. That is not on, really.
“We can criticise Croke Park about many things but they are providing these 11 weeks and if the county boards don’t avail of it I think they have something to answer for.
"Everybody says it’s all about the players and it’s all about the club but you have to show that too. The club showed that in the last three months in looking after the community.”
CPA chairman Micheál Briody likened some of the club championship systems to blitzes.
He remarked: “As an association we must respect the integrity of our club competitions and this means using the time available in the best possible way. Suggestions of running of championships in blitz format or shrunk to a very tight timeframe to enable county preparations are sacrilege and will have long-lasting implications.”
Glen Rovers and St Nicholas’ man Coughlan needed little convincing to join the CPA’s national executive committee having been approached by one of the group.
“I was very pleased to be asked to go on the committee because I do think the clubs are not getting the best of care from Croke Park. All of us on the committee are from the same organisation, which is we’re all GAA people. We have one purpose and no-one is on the committee looking for position or payment.
"It’s all completely voluntarily and that’s what encouraged me to join it.
“Our message is simple enough; it’s for the club and county to live in harmony. That is possible if we could ‘fix the fixtures’ - the whole purpose of the CPA could almost be built around those three words.
"I’m impressed with their attitude and their interest and it’s a true and a just cause: it’s to save the future of the club and to give meaningful games to players.
“I have to stay within the parameters because I could otherwise cut loose but the club is the most important unit of the GAA and that was crystallised during the coronavirus.
"Even (GAA director general) Tom Ryan acknowledged inthat the reaction of the clubs during it was incredible and how the help for the community was completely organic.
“The club is the community and I don’t think they’re getting a fair crack of the whip from Croke Park. Over the years they have said they are looking after the club but quite frankly I don’t think that there are.”
The CPA recently held their agm via teleconference where Roscommon’s Tommy Kenoy replaced Michael Higgins as secretary while Joan Kehoe took over from former Meath footballer Anthony Moyles as treasurer.
Like Coughlan, last year’s Waterford senior hurling manager Páraic Fanning (Mount Sion) was also opted on the 13-person executive.
They have been joined by Cahir Healy (Portlaoise), Kieran Fitzgerald (Corofin) and Colm Garvey (Kilmore).