Mayo chairman blasts April club fixture fiasco

Mayo manager Stephen Rochford.

The GAA’s proposal to designate April as a club-only month “is not working” and “must be revisited by Croke Park”, according to Mayo chairman Mike Connelly.

“To be honest, we’re not happy with the situation,” Connelly told club delegates in response to a question from the floor about the availability of county players for their clubs.

“Croke Park needs to acknowledge that it’s just not working. In today’s paper, Dublin said that all the players are sent back to their clubs. It’s easy for them to do that, because they’re not playing until the end of May.

“To be fair to our [senior] management, who are trying to get ready for the Galway game in the second week of May, we’re not comparing like with like.

We’re trying to keep everybody happy and it’s not simple. I’m not happy with the situation, for our clubs, ourselves, and our county senior team. It’s just not working.

Members of the Mayo senior panel have played two club league games and one championship match in the first four weekends of April.

However, after last weekend’s round of club league fixtures, they will not now be available to their clubs again until Mayo exit the All-Ireland SFC series.

Connelly also feels that their system of playing off their senior and intermediate club championships in each of the last two seasons — when Mayo reached successive All-Ireland finals — was much fairer and more practical than the GAA’s current proposal.

“Take the last two years: We were able to conclude our championship, after being in an All-Ireland final, and our county champions always had two weeks to spare for the Connacht club.

"What have we at the moment? We have something that, as far as I’m concerned, is not working. Croke Park have got to revisit it.

“We now have a situation where we’re battling with our management team, we’re battling with clubs, and we’re trying to draw up a fixtures plan that can deliver games.

"If you take Galway: They’re not playing any championship in the month of April, and that’s putting more pressure down on top of the organisation. You have a situation where certain counties have an advantage over another. It must be fair to all concerned.”

Connelly also said trying to find a compromise between board officials, Mayo GAA clubs, and senior manager Stephen Rochford had not been easy, due to the GAA’s insistence that clubs have access to players in April.

“Everybody is trying to do their best,” he said.

“You’re landed with a big game on May 13, and then you’re told that April is free for the clubs. Stephen has to prepare the team in the best way he can.

They didn’t have a great league campaign and you have to acknowledge that and you have to try and be fair to him and the county players. It’s a massive game for Stephen. He has to have his team prepared for Galway and we have to be mindful of that.

"Croke Park needs to put a model in place and force counties to adhere to it. Letting each county do their own thing just doesn’t work. There has to be a level playing pitch.”

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