Colm Cooper has questioned the fate of the calendar year proposal, believing the will of county managers is a major stumbling block.
The eight-time All-Star has spoken before of his preference for all national fixtures to be completed within the same 12-month period.
However, he has concerns about its feasibility. “There isn’t enough weeks in the year, so, unless there’s a massive mindset change from the powers that be — whether it’s county boards or the GAA’s central committee — it’s not going to change.”
Across the country, Cooper can see how boards have taken their lead from their managers.
“In most counties, the priority is the county team. I just think if that continues, it’s impossible to do it. They’ll just have to take that pain for the time being and I think it will be a while yet before we see the finals played, if we do see them at all, in the calendar year.
“The summer months are when it’s the best weather, so you should be playing a lot more football. The problem is inter-county managers have so much power and, in a lot of the cases, have a very strong view on fixtures and when they want their county players. If you’re an inter-county manager, you’re going to be judged on the success of your team and you want them all during the summer and you don’t want them going back to clubs and picking up knocks or things. That’s the way it seems to be going and I don’t see it changing anytime soon.”
Dr Crokes have five players on the Kerry panel and Cooper senses frustration from within the club about fixtures and availability.
“When you’re with the county, you want tunnel vision on trying to achieve getting to Croke Park and winning an All-Ireland with Kerry. And that’s the Kerry manager’s job. His job isn’t to facilitate the club structure.
“And the same, the club manager is only worried about his club team trying to win a county championship. So, everyone has their own priorities but, at the moment, it’s creating tension and frustration and, from what I’m hearing, I don’t think we’re going to see a solution any time very soon.”
A calendar year would possibly benefit Crokes, who on a number of occasions have fallen short upon the resumption of the championship in February. Cooper acknowledges that, though his focus is solely on beating The Nire in this Sunday’s Munster final in Mallow.
“Results don’t lie; we haven’t done well on that side. We mightn’t have that problem if things don’t go well for us on Sunday, so I wouldn’t be jumping the gun. It’s something we haven’t managed well over the last number of years.”
Cooper, who appears to be leaning towards continuing with Kerry next year, acknowledges lifting the Andy Merrigan Cup is one of his remaining ambitions in football. “There’s a few left! Look, I’ve been very open and honest about this for years. It’s a medal that I’d love to win. I’ve two brothers [Danny and Mark] who have won it; people in the club have won it. It’s a competition I hold very close to my heart and it’s the ultimate for any club player, so, of course, I want to win it.”
It’s fair to say he’s experienced more heartache with Crokes than Kerry.
“With Kerry, we are always knocking around in August. Traditionally, we are always there or thereabouts. so you always think you will be in the mix again. With the club, you don’t know. We won four county finals in a row, we thought we were going to win five or six. We didn’t. We lost a couple and won two in a row again. The way we have to look at it is that we won’t be back at this stage again.”
Crokes have a conveyor belt of talent coming through, but it worries Cooper from a club and county perspective that AFL clubs are scouting so heavily in the county.
“Can they go from any other counties, can they give us a chance?” he says, laughing. “I think there will be more players going, for sure, not just from Kerry, of course. There are plenty of other good minor players that are being spotted and I just don’t think there is any way of stopping it, to be honest. I don’t know what the GAA can do about it. I think the lure is too much for young guys.”
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