TONIGHT (Wednesday) the Mayo GAA Board meets to debate proposals for the restructuring of the football leagues within the county. A special Task Force Committee, established to restore the primacy of club football in the county, has drawn up the plan. Fears have been growing that interest in the county teams has taken precedence over club football, the resource from which county teams spring.
Mayo is not alone in its concern for club football. Disquiet has been emanating for some time from the clubs of many counties, especially those with high championship profiles. In most cases club football has been forced to play second fiddle to the county interest.
League games in Mayo have been delayed and postponed at the height of summer and the competition dragged to completion in unfit winter conditions. Frustrated managers have been forced to alter their plans, to sacrifice their own team preparations on the altar of inter-county expediency.
The state of football in each county is judged by the performances of their county teams. Yet, without healthy clubs there can be no prosperity at inter-county level. Clubs are the county nurseries. In their own competitive sphere they are more important than the state of the game at county level. They are driven by fierce parish rivalry, by pride of place. But in many cases they are being elbowed out of importance by county demands.
We turn out in our thousands as county followers. We demand success and when success is not achieved we wonder why suitable talent is not emerging. Club disillusionment might be one reason. When competitive club games are postponed to facilitate footballers with county commitments, interest among the remaining players is certain to wane.
No club should be expected to take on important fixtures without their county players. But for those not involved with the county teams postponements stir up a certain cynicism. A flagging interest sets in when training schedules are constantly disrupted. To have teams at their peak for important games is almost impossible. In the absence of Gaelic games players will search out other sporting interests.
It has not reached crisis point yet. But because of Mayo’s progress in the championship, club players were left without games over several weekends this past summer. Alive to the danger, the County Board established the task force with the aim of heading off a recurrence of those gaps. Consisting of the likes of Eamonn Clarke, Declan Ronaldson, George Golden, David Tiernan, Vincent Neary and County Board vice-chairman Paddy McNicholas, they have drawn up a blueprint that ensures a minimum quota of games for every footballer in the county every season.
The proposals include confining Division 1 of the League to senior teams, and Division 2 to every intermediate team. Junior teams will make up the remainder of the divisions. Promotion and relegation will be determined by the championships alone. The leagues will commence in mid-March and are expected to finish in early October. It is intended to have 8 to 10 rounds of the leagues completed before the championships commence. In its new format no player will be involved in fewer than twenty matches.
The incentives are attractive. The winners of Division 1 will receive €6,000, and the winners of Division 2, €4,000, to be used as players’ holiday funds. The entry fee is €100 per team.
Inevitably, some clubs will find the proposals not to their liking. Belmullet, who participated in Division 1 this season, are back in Division 2 while Kilalla will also lose out. But these new structures could be the shot in the arm club football in Mayo needs just now. They deserve the full support of clubs.
Club Stars selection prompts some debate
THE Mayo News/O’Neills Club Stars selection has not pleased every club as the following comments from disgruntled Parke manager Tommy O’Boyle indicates.
“We’re not impressed with the way the team was picked,” he told this newspaper last week. “It was a massive night, it went very well, the charity concept is brilliant and I would go again because it was for a good cause. But I just think, and the whole Parke club think, that Simon Cloherty not making it was a very wrong decision.”
The grievance which Tommy has expressed may also have resonated around other clubs whose members feel they had a player more worthy of selection than some of those chosen. Every club has them, and in taking a stand for his own Tommy’s frankness is welcome.
His is a common reaction to selections in general, the wrath of a man who accuses selectors of bias when his own expectations are not fulfilled.
Tommy also maintained that the Club Stars squad seemed to be chosen on their performances for the county rather than the club. However, that seems unlikely when you consider that the likes of Ronan McGarrity and Barry Moran, and Dermot Geraghty and David Brady and David Heaney were omitted, and players like John Brogan and John Scanlon, Eanna Casey, Stephen Drake and Brian Heneghan, none of whom featured for Mayo in the past twelve months, were chosen.
The name of Simon Cloherty was given the same consideration as those selected. He is a fine footballer and his credentials were aired and discussed at length, measured again and again with other contenders, and a place could not be found for him at midfield where he enjoys most of his football.
Because of his impressive performances he was nominated for consideration as a forward. But again Simon lost out to what were considered more worthy candidates. It was a unanimous decision by all three judges. Simple as that, Tommy! The fact that he had a poor county final, at midfield and in the forward line, might have tipped the scales against him.
Selectors should not have to justify their choices against complaints of bias. No amount of clarification will convince Tommy that he has not a valid gripe. But prejudice and partiality were far from the minds of those who spent long hours pouring over the merits of those selected.
It is to be hoped that Simon Cloherty’s qualities will not have been diminished by his disappointment at not being selected. He is a young man with a lot going for him, and his character might best be judged by his determination to cast aside this disappointment and ensure a performance next season that will win him a place among the county’s coveted Club Stars.