Monday, October 8, 2007

Fixtures: Club players deserve better

"You're a club player. You're a committed club player but aware you'll never be a committed county one. You're also going out with someone. It's March and she wants to know when you can go on holidays. You say late August, but only maybe; there's a chance there'll be a championship game but to book it all the same.

She's wondering if you'll be able to get away next weekend but you say no; there's training with the Dublin lads back and the first round of the championship only five weeks away. She's not happy but she books the holiday. Two months later, the county team draw in the first round of the championship. Your own first round is postponed...

The county lose their replay. That means they're in the qualifiers. They win their qualifier. The girlfriend asks about the weekend after next but you say there's training; the club could be out the weekend after that if the county lose. The county don't lose. A few weeks later they do. You finally have your game. In late August.

You don't have a summer holiday but you tell the girlfriend ye'll have an autumn one.

...You wait two weeks for the second round because it took a reply to decide who you'd be playing. You finally play it. Win. The next day too. The county semi-final is set for mid-October. You no longer have an autumn holiday and since it's the second year that's happened, you no longer have a girlfriend either. Play the semi-final in the muck and the rain. Lose semi-final, your fourth championship game having trained for nine months. Call girlfriend about yourselves and that holiday. Not interested.

And now, when it comes to playing next year, neither are you
". (Kieran Shannon, Sunday Tribune 06 November 2005)

Sound familiar? Are you a club player who loves his football and/or hurling, who's driven to despair from going weeks without a game, from training for a game that could be played next week or the week after, but then gets postponed time after time?

Despite what the Greedy Players' Association thinks, it's not just the inter-county players who make sacrifices and put their social lives on hold. The club players do too, and for what? - to sit out the best months of the year, June, July and August, and then have their most important games cramped into the months of October and November when pitches are heavier.

A Special Congress is set to take place on 26th January next year to address club fixtures, county fixtures, and player burden. Tomorrow GAA Player Welfare Officer, Padraig Duffy, will present a report to address this dire problem. Eugene McGee today recounts the horror stories and frustration of club players, and the failure of GAA administrations to ensure that fixture programmes are carried out. However, he's pessimistic that the drastic changes, which are so desperately needed, will be brought about: "the only way anything can be done to solve the problem is to take actions that are unpopular and GAA administrators are not in the habit of doing such things...More dates for club games cannot emerge unless there are less inter-county games but the GAA has never shown any desire to remove inter-county games from their calendar."

At Congress 2003, the then President Seán Kelly stressed the importance of the GAA club as the cornerstone of the Association and that the needs of the GAA Club must be addressed. Without the players there would be no clubs. It's time their needs were addressed.

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