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Silly season almost over for clubs

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CHANGED TIMES Some Breaffy players are pictured arriving for a Michael Walsh Secondary Senior League match at Breaffy back in July 2020 during the Covid lockdown. Pic: Sportsfile

The Way I See It
Ger Flanagan

THE Mayo club football leagues get underway next weekend for ourselves, kickstarting the beginning of the serious club season.
Our game with Balla against Ardnaree in Division 2 of the Mayo Senior Leagues has actually been moved forward a week, with the official start coming a week later across the county.
Some will feel it’s a long time coming while others will feel it’s arriving at the right time, having honoured a split-season model as practically as it could.
These dates were road-mapped a number of months back.
All of us club players were handed definitive dates and a clear schedule of summer football that will take you up to championship in September.
People were shouting off rooftops for these requirements for years, so I find it absolutely hilarious that there is still resistance to the model adopted in this county by some.
But I can almost definitively say that anyone unimpressed or unhappy with this schedule will be in the stands over the coming months and not on the pitch. Because any club player I have talked to believes this is a sustainable long-term schedule.
It’s not perfect, but it’s in keeping with what the Club Players Association worked to achieve.
The same critics of this model are the same people who were red in the face complaining that no meaningful football takes place in the summer time in recent years gone by.
These same people want club football to be played in March and April, meaning club players will be back training in mid-January.
That would effectively mean a 10-month club season for most, which is a Stone Age model we persisted with for so long until eventually the camel’s back broke.
If you enjoy going to games every weekend and the weekly bar stool analysis that follows, then it’s easy to see why people are calling for the above.
Thankfully, the current structure was designed minus the input of those.
Sure, teams will lose players to the USA as young lads go travelling. But some would make you believe this is a completely new phenomenon that hasn’t been an issue for clubs for years.
And from what I’m seeing and hearing, 2022 will bring a large increase in the numbers heading to the far side of the Atlantic Ocean.
But that’s completely understandable given that the departure gates to New York, Chicago, Boston, Phili’ and San Fran have been under lock and key for the past couple of years.
That’s an obstacle clubs are just going to have to accept and deal with.
It’s a situation that will, of course, be much easier on the bigger clubs than the smaller ones.
We in Balla are losing a number of players ourselves, many of them starters.
And we’re not blessed with a deep squad!
Your selfish side would love to see the lads stick around in Mayo and play club football instead of heading to greener pastures in the USA for a summer of Bud Light, s**t pitches and sunburn.  But your more considerate side realises how ridiculous that sounds.
I was one of those who left for three months back in 2015 and it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I would recommend to anyone. You learn independence, make connections, your mind is broadened by opportunity and you have some serious craic along the way too.
Anyways, most will return by August, with enough time to run off the extravagance in time for championship.
Maybe it was the absence of meaningful club football over the past few months that has created a vacuum for people to air their frustrations. Our traditional minds aren’t programmed to accept a change to the status quo in Mayo and adopt a new way of thinking.
It could also be people getting cold feet from seeing other counties play out their league football and believing they have the right way of doing things without having any quantifiable proof.
My opinion is that when the league gets up and running in two weeks time, there will be some serious excitement of the week-on-week nature.
It might run alongside Mayo’s run in the Qualifiers for some weeks or it may not. But there will be high-quality football every weekend throughout the summer months and that will be hard to beat.
Who knows, we may even have a situation where Mayo are knocked out of the championship early and clubs get unusually early access to their county stars.
That means more than half of the league will experience the top teams with most of their top players and that will only add to the entertainment.
In my time, I’ve never seen a league season like that and I’d be lying if I said that I wouldn’t want to experience it either.
If the league is enriched with the presence of county players, I think it would absolutely flourish during the summer and the trials and tribulations of the Mayo team would be long forgotten as the local rivalry ramps up.
I consider myself a bit of a club snob anyway.
I’m one of those people who likes to point out that there are thousands of Mayo supporters that travel the length and breadth of the country to see their county, but won’t go across town to see their club. So maybe the above doesn’t apply to all.
I make no apologies for it either.
I’m optimistic and excited about what the summer will bring for club football.
It will be a different experience for all and one we should be embracing.

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