GPA split season plan has support in Croke Park

The GPA will present their plan to the GAA’s national fixtures review taskforce on August 19.
GPA split season plan has support in Croke Park
Mark Landers believes the GPA’s plan to reduce the length of the inter-county season can protect clubs. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The idea of a split season as proposed by the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) has support among the GAA’s top officials.

Although there are reservations about dividing the calendar into club and county blocks in the likes of the Central Competitions Control Committee, it is understood the split structure would be backed by some high profile individuals in Croke Park.

The GPA will present their plan to the GAA’s national fixtures review taskforce on August 19. 

That body previously devised their own split season idea but it didn’t make their shortlist for a number of reasons such as inter-county players not being with their clubs for six months and an All-Ireland finals taking place in the middle of the year.

Wexford vice-chairman Micheál Martin, who previously acted as national fixtures committee chairman, is a member of the taskforce. He says the GPA proposal will be given due consideration.

“Nothing is off the table. We’re in changed times and everything will be considered. I would imagine that will be the view of the whole group. We’re being reconvened to review the previous proposals and to examine any other proposals we may have.

“Despite what was put in the public by the CPA (Club Players Association), the group were very much of the opinion that change was required and there was an openness to change before Covid-19 and I imagine it hasn’t done anything to change that appreciation. It may even have brought a greater appreciation of that.” 

Prior to the pandemic, the fixtures review taskforce were to conduct a roadshow explaining their proposals such as the three football championship options — flipping the National League and Championship, four provincial conferences of eight teams and an update of the status quo that would involve the Super 8 being retained.

A Special Congress was due to take place next month so that the format would come into effect from the start of 2021.

“The roadshow didn’t take place for obvious reasons and there is no decision on a Special Congress from my understanding,” remarked Martin. “There is an openness to consider other things and from speaking to the Uachtarán (John Horan) he’d be very open as well.” 

Martin’s county Wexford led the way in constructing a split championship season with the majority of hurling games taking place in the opening four weekends since the resumption.

Despite being slated for how they have used the club window, Martin says the feedback about the schedule and structure over the last few weeks has been significantly positive.

As last year’s finalists St Martin’s and St Anne’s were beaten in last weekend’s quarter-finals, the semi-finalists are completely different to last year’s final four.

“Wexford got a huge amount of criticism for running hurling and football separately but this past weekend there have been reports in the media where clubs are saying it’s the best hurling championship we have had.

“That’s likely to be the same in football because previously we had an issue of alternating week on week between football and hurling.

“This year has allowed counties to do things they probably would never have done before.

“There are advantages and disadvantages but from a Wexford point of view it has been a massive success.

“It was disappointing to read the criticism from outside the county including members of the CPA who had just no understanding of the structure within the county.” 

Meanwhile, Cork’s 1999 All-Ireland winning captain Mark Landers believes the GPA’s plan to reduce the length of the inter-county season can protect clubs.

“It’s a big statement from the GPA because they’re only carrying the views of the inter-county footballers and hurlers of this country,” he said on the Irish Examiner’s live coverage of Fr O’Neill’s Cork senior A hurling championship win over Bride Rovers.

“They’re actually saying, ‘Listen, we want this condensed.’ And is this giving more time back to the club? I think it probably is because they’re only amateur players at the end of the day, they’ve got family, they’ve got jobs to go to and being an inter-county player is a very difficult thing.” 

Landers is of the same mind as Teddy McCarthy that splitting the club season between football and hurling is worth exploring. 

“In Cork, we’re combining football and hurling every second week and that’s not conducive for dual clubs. What I’d love to see happening is a football season at the start and a hurling season or vice versa. You would suit a lot of dual clubs in that scenario. You could give five or six weeks and it’s all football and five or six weeks and it’s all hurling.”

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