'Normality has to resume': The National League has to be played, says Leitrim chief

At a recent meeting of county board treasurers, some expressed the view that the football and hurling leagues could be shelved for the year because of costs
'Normality has to resume': The National League has to be played, says Leitrim chief

A general view of Páirc Seán Mac Diarmada, home of Leitrim GAA. Picture: Brendan Moran

Empty coffers is no excuse for shelving this year’s National League, according to Leitrim chairman Enda Stenson, who expects the competition to throw-in the weekend after St Patrick’s Day.

The National League is scheduled to commence on the weekend of February 27/28 and while it is widely accepted the 2021 League will not begin at the end of next month, Croke Park has insisted no decision on when the competition might start, if it does indeed get off the ground this spring, will be made until Friday, January 29.

Stenson sees March 20/21 - three weeks later than the date outlined in the GAA’s master fixture plan - as a more realistic start date for the 2021 League.

At a recent meeting of county board treasurers, some expressed the view that the football and hurling leagues could be shelved for the year because of costs. Stenson is firmly opposed to this line of thinking and said cash-strapped counties, including themselves, must continue “to cut their cloth according to their means”.

He added that while no player should be out of pocket lining out for their county, they too must play their part in keeping costs to a minimum.

“The League being pushed out to the end of March, that seems to be the thinking from Croke Park. Surely by then we will be able to get up and running,” Stenson remarked.

“I know in every county the coffers are very low. But people are going to have to cut their cloth according to their means. We have got to do something, and it shouldn't be about paying managers or paying players. We have all got to put the shoulder to the wheel and get out there.

“If it is the end of March when we are allowed to play again, so be it.

For the good of everything, normality has to resume. We can't say we are not doing it because we haven't the funds at this stage.

The Leitrim chairman continued: “We are lucky to have Terry Hyland as senior manager. He is going to train Leitrim for 2021. He is not going to ask us have we money or do we not have money. That's leading by example. Everyone has to buy into this. Players, long before the GPA, drove from Dublin in bad cars, played for their county, got back into it afterwards, and drove back that night. That is what the GAA was.

"I know we have moved a long journey from that, but maybe this Covid has brought things back to a more even keel.

“When you don't have something, you can't give it. You can't take blood from a turnip, so if somebody doesn't want to play because they are not getting paid to the level that the GPA thinks they should be paid, then maybe somebody else will take up the challenge. I don't want anybody to be out of pocket, I just think there should be a reappraisal of the whole system.”

Leitrim’s 2020 end of year deficit was far smaller than originally feared, and their income ledger will be boosted by the 50-mile January challenge, a fundraising initiative thought up by former Leitrim footballer Adrian O’Flynn. Stenson said the fundraiser could raise up to €40,000 for Leitrim GAA.

“We have thousands of people all over the world, from Australia to America, everywhere, running and walking 50 miles this month for Leitrim GAA.

“We are depending on family-run businesses for sponsorship. Our main sponsor is Seamus and Catriona Clarke of PJ Clarke’s Saloon on McLean Avenue in New York. Before that, it was Joe and Rosey Dolan in the Bush Hotel in Carrick-on-Shannon. They are all family-run businesses. This fundraiser has been huge for us.”

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