’The same problem will be there in 40 years’

In the first of a four-part series on key issues in the GAA, threats to the club is foremost.

Galway chairman Noel Treacy: “We’re a big dual county with over 80 clubs and it’s a major challenge to manage. It’s a challenge but if the county teams play well it ups the standard in the clubs and we would say it is a dual pressure point. But we have to take that as a positive.”

Leitrim secretary Diarmuid Sweeney: “Last year we had a break in the league preceded by a bye which gave us an opportunity to play club league games. We progressed well in the championship and were in it two-three weeks longer than normal but our fixtures only finished up a week later.

“We don’t have that break this year and start the championship earlier. It’s going to be difficult. You can play so many games without county players and in our county you can’t play midweek games with the amount of players living outside the county now.”

London PRO Declan Flanagan: “Our CCC tends to work around the inter-county games. If the football team are in action they will minimise the football and vice versa with the hurling. There are always games for players except on championship weekends. Our main fixtures don’t start until after St Patrick’s weekend.”

Mayo PRO Aiden McLoughlin: “National fixtures always have a major impact on scheduling club fixtures and we have taken steps this year to try and ensure all our clubs have regular competitive football during the summer months.”

Roscommon PRO Colm Beirne: “The scheduling of inter-county fixtures, and in particular the championship/qualifiers have a big impact on our own club championships. In order to provide games for the majority of our players, we have to schedule our leagues in tandem with the Allianz Leagues and some clubs have to play without inter-county players for some of their games. Although this gives fringe players in the clubs an opportunity to play on a more regular basis the clubs also feel that they are penalised for producing/providing players to inter-county panels.”

Sligo chairman Cyril Feehily: “With 24 clubs, if we don’t win the Connacht title, it’s not a major issue. In our master plan we had no effect in the last two years from the championship.”

Cork PRO Tracey Kennedy: “There is a certain level of impact as a result of inter-county involvement and the fact we are a reasonably successful dual county and have more commitments impacts more on us. It causes an inevitable interruption to club fixtures programme and the impact varies whether we go the qualifier or more direct route. The GAA has dealt with the planning with master fixtures so we can see where we’re going to be and where we might be so when we plan it, these things are incorporated into it.”

Clare chairman Michael McDonagh: “If you’re a successful county, as we like to think we are, they’re playing a lot of their fixtures in May, June and July. We have to put in masters fixtures plan in place by February to make sure clubs know what’s going on. We also need to look after the dual players’ welfare and it is a major issue. But we all know that in order for club players to survive and thrive we need to be playing club fixtures during the summer months.”

Kerry chairman Patrick O’Sullivan: “We have a very proactive CCC. Our fixtures are run off on time. It’s tight but we find in July, if you’re not successful in Munster, the back door takes up games and time because league games are affected. It’s a national problem but we’re happy with our programme.”

Limerick secretary Mike O’Riordan: “The structure of the club championships is defined by the master fixtures at the start of the season. We leave a window open for qualifiers and other inter-county games and if they don’t happen we try to play league games rather than championship ones and commence the club championship in August.”

Waterford secretary Timmy O’Keeffe: “We’ve got them under control over the last three years. One thing is if you get a run in the qualifiers it makes it tougher. A lot depends if you get a beaten in the first round. We have a year planner now and everyone knows when they’re playing. It was finalised early in year and it doesn’t move.” .

Tipperary secretary Tim Floyd: “We have always reached our Munster targets. By and large, the Tipperary model is to play club championship games over the year, no matter if it’s two or three weeks before a Munster or All-Ireland final. We never stop completely.”

Carlow secretary Ger Lennon: “They interfere with club fixtures because county teams are playing non-stop until mid-April. Then the county teams are preparing for the championship in May and there are very few weekends free, particularly with us playing hurling and football. Championships run to mid-October and there is no room for error. The result is our dual clubs play every weekend from July to mid September.”

Dublin chairman Andy Kettle: “To a great extent. Over 4,5000 adult fixtures in a year and it makes it tight. With us being a dual county it hits us harder than one or other code.”

Kilkenny secretary Jimmy Walsh:

“They have impinged on the regularity of games at times. However, thanks to advance planning and the great co-operation between the clubs, county team managers and the county board it has seen the provision of a complete fixtures list for the season that is adhered to.”

Kildare secretary Bernadette O’Neill: “Most of the good Sundays and Saturdays are taken with county games. We try to get our fixtures to tie in with the county games. We’ve no dual players on the senior panels so we’re lucky but we do have issues with that at minor level.”

Laois chairman Gerry Kavanagh: “We’re lucky our full-time secretary, Niall Hanley, is a genius in running club fixtures in conjunction with inter-county games. By and large we’ve no problems. You’re always concerned the club player is being short-changed but we endeavour to provide a full programme of games at all levels.”

Longford secretary Peter O’Reilly: “We’ve only 24 clubs in Longford so it’s easy enough to get around. The big hitch last year was the replay of All-Ireland SHC final. We had an IFC final planned for that weekend. The previous year we were finished by September but the senior champions were left waiting till November for their Leinster club championship game due to the delay for Dublin. So last year we started later. Then that IFC game went to a replay and we had no room to manoeuvre.”

Louth chairman Padraic O’Connor: “We have a fixtures forum where we sit our county manager down and impress the importance of working with the clubs. They also agree to only hold a bare minimum squad when they’re preparing for games. Last year it affected one senior club league match all season so it shows when everyone works together and the clubs work together what you can achieve.”

Meath chairman Conor Tormey: “Minor inter-county more than senior. A lot of our minors play for their first teams but when they got to the All-Ireland it became an issue. This year the minor people are going on the CCC to work together on it.”

Offaly secretary Tom Byrne: “Not too much in the last few years. We had a fairly good programme last year and not too many changes were made in our review at the end of the year. We bring a cross section of clubs into the room and discuss it all with the chairman. There are no changes to the formats after that November meeting then. We managed to play championship in each summer month in hurling and missed one month in football. In fairness, managers want lads playing for their clubs too so it helps.”

Westmeath secretary James Savage: “They do impinge on club fixtures. I was involved in fixtures myself and the same problem will be there in 40 years time. There’s simply not enough time in the year and something always suffers. During the leagues here the clubs play without the county players. Thankfully the clubs in Westmeath are understanding.”

Wexford chairman Diarmuid Devereux: “I wouldn’t say we’ve any great problem with them. The county strategic plan takes on board fixtures and we base our club fixtures plan on the Leinster championship. Last year our strategic plan delivered all the county finals ahead of the Leinster fixtures.

“Now if we proceeded in qualifiers in both hurling and football it might be a problem, but we’ve no evidence of that yet.”

Wicklow chairman Martin Coleman: “They haven’t really. We play a non-status league where county players don’t play and county championships are run to date with no problems.”

Antrim secretary Frankie Quinn: “It hasn’t. We have a very active CCC and plan games from the start of the year. Our senior football and hurling club teams played 18 games last year. Sometimes without senior players. Our championships are straight knock out and it helps.”

Armagh secretary Paddy Óg Nugent: “Only slightly as we play club league games without county players.”

Cavan chairman Tom O’Reilly: “The qualifiers cause major problems. We drafted our leagues to play two or three games a month with no county players for teams.

“We are implementing that this year. ”

Derry chairman John Keenan “We make decisions collectively with clubs on the best ways to massage the fixtures lists. We tweak it year on year. We can’t make allowances for a draw so there will be hiccups but preparation is the way forward. If you don’t make allowances for hiccups there’s got to be plan B.”

Donegal secretary Máirtín Ó Fearraigh: “Last year it had an affect us because of the All-Ireland. The clubs signed up to a charter at the start of the year but that all went by the wayside when we progressed.

“It’s difficult with our championship structure and until we change it there will be difficulties. There are players being left six, seven, eight weeks without getting a game and we will have to look at that.”

Down secretary Sean McAteer: “We try to work alongside them. We do a draft fixture programme and work them through with the managers and clubs and try to get them running with minimum disruptions. We have a long-term policy of games without county players. No club is detrimentally affected and you are guaranteed you will have your county players for the last three games. There’s also no relegation either. ”

Fermanagh chairman Patsy Dolan: “There is an effect but at the same time we managed to get our fixtures finished by mid October. We aim to give our clubs a full compliment of 16 fixtures per year and often go above it but that depends on county side’s progress.”

Monaghan chairman Paul Curran: “I wouldn’t say it has affected it us much. The CCC in consultation with the clubs has come up with the master fixtures and the county managers have respected that.”

Tyrone chairman Ciaran McLoughlin: “There’s always going to be situations. I was fixtures chairman and fortunately we haven’t had issues. A star system is in place where rounds are played without county men and with county men. Our club championship starts in August but the current system gets players playing football and that’s important.”


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