'Player abuse': Colm O'Rourke blasts GAA over early season schedule

Meath manager Colm O'Rourke has blasted the GAA for running Sigerson Cup and inter-county competitions alongside each other, branding it 'the ultimate in player abuse'
'Player abuse': Colm O'Rourke blasts GAA over early season schedule

NOT HAPPY: Meath manager Colm O'Rourke with selector Seán Boylan after the Allianz Football League Division 2 match against Clare at Páirc Tailteann in Navan, Meath. Pic: Daire Brennan/Sportsfile

Meath 4-8 Clare 0-16 

Meath manager Colm O'Rourke has blasted the GAA for running Sigerson Cup and inter-county competitions alongside each other, branding it 'the ultimate in player abuse'.

O'Rourke was fuming despite guiding Meath to back to back wins in Division 2 of the National League as two key players, Mathew Costello and Shane Walsh, have picked up hamstring injuries.

Costello top scored for DCU in last Tuesday night's Sigerson Cup win over MTU Cork but picked up a hamstring injury and was ruled out of the Clare game.

Walsh, who kicked 1-7 in Meath's league win over Cork two days earlier, played in that game for DCU too and started against Clare in Navan but came off injured after just 13 minutes.

O'Rourke said he also took off Darragh Campion and Cathal Hickey as they had been involved in TU Dublin's marathon midweek Sigerson Cup game which went to extra-time.

"All of these fellas played Sigerson," said O'Rourke. "It's absolutely ridiculous that a fella like Mathew Costello has to come back from Cork and less than 48 hours later he is being put out in a very important game for his college.

"The timing of the Sigerson is all wrong. We have six players tied up in it and we had to take five of them off today. There's two of them now injured with hamstrings. They're pure overuse injuries. It's a disgrace, it's abuse of players and it shouldn't be going on at this time."

O'Rourke has previously stated that he would prefer a later start to the National League and an earlier, pre-Christmas Sigerson slot.

"I know that the managers of those college teams have tried to mind the players but you can't possibly do it," he continued. "They're back out again with semi-finals this Wednesday. I just think it's an absolute disgrace what is happening with these players, the best of young players. They are so willing to give of themselves that...the GAA talk about player welfare - this is the ultimate in player abuse."

The Round 2 win, preserving Meath's unbeaten start to 2023 under O'Rourke, brought some cheer for the new manager though the overall performance disappointed him.

Like the win in Cork, Meath used goals as their battering ram to success with Donal Lenihan, who struck 2-2, Jordan Morris and Jason Scully all hitting the net.

On two occasions, midway through the first-half, and in the closing minutes, Meath opened up nine-point leads but, each time, they then allowed Clare to respond with five points in a row.

The slightly schizophrenic performance frustrated O'Rourke who maintained that when the goals inevitably dry up in the future, Meath will need to be scoring much more than just eight points.

"Definitely Clare's defensive style caused us problems but that's the learning process," he said. "We're going to have to learn quickly now because there's a lot of other teams who will be as defensive as Clare. We have Louth to come here, they will be something similar, Derry in the next game are very defensive, so we have to learn quickly."

An early Morris point from an advanced mark and Lenihan's second goal, in the 18th minute, when he flicked home from Ronan Jones' long ball in, suggested that they may profit more on the afternoon from long deliveries but they struggled for long spells to penetrate a well marshalled Clare defence.

Clare, trailing 0-7 to 3-3 at half-time, got it back to a three-point game in the third quarter but coughed up a further 1-4 between the 45th and 63rd minutes, the highlight of which was Scully's low finish for Meath's fourth goal.

Clare were without captain Eoin Cleary (sick), Darren O'Neill (thum) and Keelan Sexton (hamstring).

Scorers for Meath: D Lenihan (2-2, 0-2 frees); J Morris (1-2, 1 mark, 1 free); J Scully (1-1); J O'Connor, D McGowan, D Campion (0-1 each).

Scorers for Clare: E McMahon (0-5, 3 frees); G Cooney (0-3, 2 frees); M McInerney (0-2, 2 frees); J Malone, D Coughlan, A Griffin, P Lillis, P Collins, D Bohannon (0-1).

Meath: H Hogan; A O'Neill, M Flood, H O'Higgins; J O'Connor, D Keogan, C Hickey; R Jones, D McGowan; C O'Sullivan, J Scully, D Campion; J Morris, D Lenihan, S Walsh.

Subs: D Moriarty for Walsh (13); S Crosby for O'Sullivan (38-40, blood); B Conlon for McGowan (49); Crosby for Campion (53); R Clarke for Hickey (58); S McEntee for Scully (68).

Clare: D Sexton; C Brennan, R Lanigan, M Doherty; J Malone; A Sweeney, P Lillis, C O'Dea; C O'Connor, D Bohannon; D Coughlan, E McMahon, C Downes; P Collins, G Cooney.

Subs: A Griffin for Downes (h/t); D Nagle for Lanigan (38-47, blood); I Ugweru for Coughlan (49); D Walsh for Sweeney (54); M McInerney for Cooney (61); D Keating for O'Connor (63).

Referee: N Cullen (Fermanagh).

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