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Demands on top Mayo players now ‘unsustainable’


The demands on top Mayo players are now ‘unsustainable’

Mike Finnerty

ONE of the most experienced and respected GAA coaches in Mayo believes that it won’t be long until clubs will only have access to their county players for championship matches. Speaking to The Mayo News last week in relation to the issue of ‘starred’ club league games, and whether or not the experiment of playing some recent matches without county players has been a success, Davitts manager Martin Connolly declared that a “gradual move towards professionalism” is unavoidable given the modern regime for all county stars. The former Mayo selector also had some very interesting observations about the “unsustainable” demands on inter-county players nowadays, and he has had his own suggestion for trying to get “a consistency” of club games played in Mayo in a given season. “The demands on the players are so great now that something will have to give, it’s not sustainable,” said Connolly, who also played with Mayo in the 1980s. “These lads are with the county five or six teams a week, and then have to show up and train and play with their clubs. “I firmly believe, before too long, you’re only going to have access to your county players a few times a year for club championship games. “It’s not realistic that amateur players, with jobs and lives, can train and play six or seven times a week indefinitely. “It’s a gradual move towards professionalism.” Connolly, who is also heavily involved in coaching and management with Rice College, Westport, revealed that he had sent a radical proposal for streamlining club fixtures to Mayo GAA Secretary, Vincent Neary, earlier this year. “It might sound fairly radical but why not leave county players out of the league altogether?,” asked Connolly. “In Down, for example, clubs play all their league games, on a home and away basis, without their county players. “And then the bottom teams, that are in the relegation play-off spots, have access to their county players for those matches. “Personally, I’d like to press on without the county players for the entire league, and have access to them for the championship. At least everybody knows where they stand from the very start. “I would also be in favour of replacing the Secondary League games with proper Senior League matches. I find with the Secondary League, you never know from one game to the next what sort of a team you’re going to come up against. Some take it seriously, others don’t. Consistency of games is what players and managers want.” Two ‘starred’ league games have been played in recent weeks with a maximum of four more provisionally pencilled in before the end of the season, depending on Mayo’s progress in the championship. However, there has been a mixed reaction to the ‘starred’ experiment as teams with small panels and those with a large contingent of county players being most affected. Results have also fluctuated wildly from week to week. “We’re very lucky because Colm [Boyle] and Michael [Conroy] are brilliant, anything they can do for Davitts they will do,” explained Connolly. “But the biggest problem we have is that we’ve got quite a few injuries, on top of Colm and Mickey being unavailable. “Between the injured guys, and fellas gone to America, you could be down six or seven lads before you know it. “The unfairness of it is the biggest issue for me. Teams like Ballintubber or Breaffy have four players missing for starred matches, we have two lads out, and then you come up against a team with nobody missing. In a situation like that, you feel hard done by. “The club championship format is very good, you have three games a year and you know whether you’re in or out by the end of July,” he added. “It’s not easy to get it exactly right, but I think the league is still a work in progress.”


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