Split club season to help GAA's dual stars, says Teddy McCarthy

The Cork great would like to see the club championships trialled on a consecutive basis as opposed to being run concurrently
Split club season to help GAA's dual stars, says Teddy McCarthy

Teddy McCarthy assesses his options during  Cork's victory over Galway in the 1990 All-Ireland SHC final. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Legendary Cork dual star Teddy McCarthy is in favour of a split club season to encourage more players line out for their clubs’ football and hurling teams.

As some club players in Cork are reducing their commitments due to the condensed nature of the club window, McCarthy would like to see the club championships trialled on a consecutive basis as opposed to being run concurrently as is the case now.

The Sarsfields and Glanmire man accepts such a programme is easier to implement in Waterford and Wexford where there are less clubs, but he reckons it is something worth considering in Cork.

“The one thing I like about this whole situation is that there is no crossover between the club and county games. Cork was supposed to have club games in April and resume in August, which is totally ludicrous. It’s a two-season job then, that’s the bottom line. Two games then off you go and come back over three months later.

A hurling club championship followed by a football club championship is a grand idea but the inter-county would have to be scaled back. I would like that and I think it would be beneficial to the dual club and the dual player.

“As they are entitled to, Croke Park trial things for three years and see how they go. I see no reason why the county boards can’t do the same and say: ‘Look, we’re going to have a football season and a hurling season, trial it for two or three years and if it doesn’t work we’ll revert to what was there or go back to the drawing board’. But the one thing we know is the GAA is slow to change.”

McCarthy’s two senior county titles came with Imokilly’s footballers in 1984 and ‘86 and he is disheartened by how their football stock has dropped in recent times to the point where they won’t be fielding a team in this year’s premier senior championship.

As the division’s hurlers aim to lift the Seán Óg Murphy Cup for a fourth consecutive season this year, McCarthy feels their fortunes in the bigger ball game could improve if football had a separate period in the calendar. 

“In my time, Imokilly would have had strong intermediate clubs. Football in East Cork at the moment is at a low ebb. It’s all but gone. They don’t have a team in the senior county championship. If there was a club football and a club hurling season it might allow Imokilly to reinvent itself.”

McCarthy understands but regrets that some county players who play both codes at club level have felt the need to prioritise one over the other. “The proof is in the pudding, I suppose, with the guys from Douglas, the two Cadogans (Eoin and Alan) and Shane Kingston, opting for hurling more so than football. I’m led to believe Mark Collins is only going to concentrate on football. They are due to the unfortunate circumstances we find ourselves in. It’s unworkable in a way.

“Right now I would say it’s very difficult to have isolated seasons, especially with the inter-county teams coming back training from September 14. You couldn’t have one season over by then, say hurling first and football after. It wouldn’t be fair.

“The system in Cork, they’re putting the club first and it’s great to see. There’s a minimum number of games for clubs but it’s very difficult for the dual players, especially in clubs like St Finbarr's where they have senior and intermediate football and hurling teams.”

What particularly upsets McCarthy is county managers at development level encouraging dual players to specialise in one sport. “You see development squads in Cork and lads being asked to choose one code over the other. At the ages of 14, 15, 16, that’s very disappointing. A lad of that age is not too sure of who he is and what he’s about and it appears to me that some of the people in charge are making the decisions for them.

It’s disappointing as a whole for the player and the spectators and the GAA at heart that the job of the GAA is to promote the two games on an equal footing and unfortunately for the dual player I don’t think that’s happening.”

The senior county dual player in Cork died out with the Cadogans, Damien Cahalane, and Aidan Walsh and McCarthy sees no way back. “The whole situation is gone very commercial and the GAA is a very money-driven product now and it has to fit in with various commercial activities. That is detrimental to the dual player.

“I could have played four games to win an All-Ireland but now you could play six or seven and as we all know that’s commercially driven. You’d have breaks in between but now you could have Cork footballers playing on a Saturday night and the hurlers out the following afternoon. It’s not feasible anymore.”

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