Michael Duignan calls on county managers to put club players first

County boards have been given two extra weeks to stage their championships but many are awaiting the confirmation of the inter-county season before finalising structures and schedules.
Michael Duignan calls on county managers to put club players first
Offaly chairman Michael Duignan Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Offaly chairman Michael Duignan Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

County boards have been given two extra weeks to stage their championships but many are awaiting the confirmation of the inter-county season before finalising structures and schedules.

The GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) could reveal that plan as early as on Monday, at which time counties will know when their senior teams commence their provincial championships.

Although it is expected outstanding Allianz League games which will decide promotion and relegation will be played on the weekends of October 17 and 24 before the Championship takes place, counties want to know exactly when their sides are out before confirming their plans.

The GAA were quick to react to Friday’s decision by the Government to allow all contact sport return from June 29. Their advisory group convened on Saturday and those extra two weeks were given to county boards so they now have 13 weekends to complete their championships.

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“We’re bringing forward the date from which county boards can schedule fixtures to July 17 (from July 31). That will reduce the compression in the whole area of returning to fixtures and will allow a little more leeway in terms of organising matches.

“The dates which we set originally for a return to inter-county training on September 14 and the resumption of games on October 17 remain in place.” The overlap between the September 14 start date for collective inter-county training is likely to remain an issue, though. And while senior inter-county footballers had hoped for a qualifier system like the hurlers, the priority for players is to have the season concluded in 2020.

The extra space could ease some of the tension in Cork where it was feared championships could extend beyond the end of the exclusive club window on October 11. It remains to be seen if Wexford push their senior hurling county final into September or stick with their provisional plan to finish the competition by the end of August.

However, the fear that some counties will have more of a clear run-in to the Championship than others remains. Speaking on The Sunday Game, Offaly chairman Michael Duignan said there is a problem as not all counties are optimising the club window.

Suggesting he will use the extra two weeks to give to the county set-up, Duignan remarked of his county managers: “I have to say with Michael Fennelly and John Maughan, two past players, I was able to talk with those lads, no issue, they totally agreed it was the way forward. I think the issue is that if everyone is not doing the same thing.

“But I think it gives more time now. If we still follow the 10-11 week programme, which we would have planned in Offaly to have 10 weeks with an extra week maybe for a replay, that would give an extra couple of weeks for lads then to go back with the county, which is very much welcome.

“So I’m hoping that maybe counties will stand back and show leadership here and say to their inter-county managers that club has to come first. And I’m hoping the GPA comes in as well and say ‘we’re talking on behalf of the players here, we want them to go back to their clubs.’

I think we need leadership. I think this is a bigger issue going forward in terms of who is going to stop the runaway train which is inter-county, a €30 million spend last year, it has to change as far as I’m concerned.

From this Wednesday to Sunday, non-contact adult training can recommence with minor and below returning under the same protocols on Saturday. All participants must also have completed the coronavirus eLearning module. In the 26 counties, a maximum of 15 players can train in a designated area of the field and a maximum of 10 in the six counties.

From this day week, contact training and challenge games can take place in the 26 counties. The GAA are awaiting guidance from the Northern Ireland executive about extending that easing of restrictions to the six counties. Also from June 29, a maximum of 200 people can be permitted into a club's grounds.

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