BRIGHTER DAYS AHEAD The Neale GAA club chairman, Declan Hughes, is pictured recording a video of last year’s Michael Walsh League match against Castlebar Mitchels in Cong. Pic: Sportsfile
The way I see it
THE GAA’s latest return to play roadmap that was released last Thursday didn’t make for very optimistic reading for the club player.
Without wanting to sound like a complete spoilt child, being told that there isn’t going to be meaningful club action until September was a blow to take.
Motivation levels to try and stay in some sort of shape before the season begins were noticeably beginning to wane in recent weeks, and this news is set to crash the stock even further.
My frustration doesn’t lie with the fact that club football won’t take place until autumn; in my head I had optimistically pinpointed an August return, with September not being the ‘end of the world’ either. We knew that the inter-county season was going to take place first and it will get preferential treatment, like it always does.
But the lack of clarity given to club fixtures is what will annoy players and managers the most. And that’s before you talk about the fact that inter-county Under-17 and Under-20 teams have absolutely zero indication of when they might return.
In the GAA’s revised overview of the season that was sent to clubs last week, the Minor and Under-20 championships were afforded only a single line of description for the year ahead.
It could be a busy Christmas week for them!
At present, we know that club football will take place in September. But we’re also told that club competitions with county players can take place as county teams exit the championship. So, with the All-Ireland championship starting at the end of June on a straight knock-out basis, there’s a chance that a return to action could be made on a drop of a hat.
Given that fact that there was no indication of any kind as to when adult club teams may be able to return to training (even non-contact), makes this a bit ridiculous. I’m aware that the decision lies at Government/Nphetlevel, but surely communication should have taken place about that when the return to inter-county action was being discussed too.
As a result, you’re now going to see more breaches of regulations from club teams who are eager to get back and be prepared if the club championships move forward because their respective inter-county teams are knocked out early.
Given how competitive the Connacht SFC is going to be this year, club teams in this province will definitely be thinking along those lines.
League loses credibility
ANOTHER consequence from last week’s announcement is that clubs who win their respective county championships early (due to their county team making an early exit) are also looking at a spell of no activity before the provincial championships start up in mid-November.
I would argue that puts clubs whose county team lasts the longest in a much stronger position because they won’t be facing a furlough period before they get back into action in November.
It’s also very hard not to feel that the staging of the National League is being done completely for the sake of it. With a tighter calendar, HQ are running a competition that effectively may not end up with a winner.
How ridiculous is it that plans are fixed for ‘potential league finals’, but if counties are involved in championship the following week, joint winners will be declared?
In my opinion, it completely removes the credibility of the competition.
Hopefully, County Boards will be hoping to run some sort of club football during the summer without the county players. But that will bring about the age-old debate of whether or not clubs will want to play league football without their county players.
Plus, it also contradicts the split-season model that was voted in at Convention.
So is it even possible?
Secondary leagues just don’t cut it, and another year without playing the Mayo Senior Leagues is a massive blow to some clubs, particularly for us in Balla who are hoping to get out of Division 3. But that’s our position, and isn’t applicable to clubs who have a number of county players and aren’t willing to risk relegation from playing without them.
That’s completely understandable too. If we were in their shoes I certainly would not want to play serious league games without our best players. If that’s the case, the Mayo Senior League subconsciously becomes a secondary league and loses its credibility, which is a shame, because it’s a brilliant, competitive and enjoyable competition when it’s given time to breath.
So, despite all the optimism upon the announcement of the split seasons, where club football will be provided ample time to flourish away from the inter-county squeeze, it now feels like it is again being treated as the difficult child.
Of course, the landscape is testing due to the pandemic, so my hope is that this approach doesn’t start becoming the new norm beyond 2021 after such massive strides have been made in the last few months.
But right now there are still way too many questions left unanswered for club players, and the feeling of being in limbo about to when we could be playing stirs a feeling of déjà vu all over again.
What do you think?