While the club versus county debate is by no means a fresh argument, the issue has dominated GAA discussions in recent weeks.
The restructured season sees the summer months reserved for the club game with the GAA setting aside September 14 as a date for when county sides can meet up for collective training. Meanwhile, October 11 earmarked as the cut-off point for county players to play with their clubs.
However, with the majority of county championships set to finish well in advance of the October date set aside, speculation is rife that many are pandering to the inter-county game while other rumours have circulated that some county panels may have already disregarded rules around training bans.
It raises issues around elitism within the GAA and how the association caters towards the upper echelons of the game, something that incoming President Larry McCarthy outlined he intended to combat when he takes office in 2021.
“There is a tendency then to ignore the 98 per cent, which is not good, no matter what way we look at it. At some level, we are becoming globalised and obsessed with seeing the elite,” McCarthy said on the GAA’s Hurling Around The World webinar.
“We have to make sure we take care of the second and third and the fourth levels, that 98%.”
While the narrative would suggest that many agree with McCarthy’s take on curtailing elitism in the GAA, speaking on the RTE GAA podcast, former Cork goalkeeper Donal Og Cusack went the other direction citing that we should “absolutely be catering for the elite aspect of our sports.”
The former All-Star winner argues that the county game is essential with the trickle-down effect of a strong, united county team raising the spirits of communities and supporters.
“There’s this perception being put out there that the club player is almost holier than the inter-county player. I would argue the county game is every bit as integral and as historical a component of the GAA as the club game.
“It’s vital in terms of showcasing our games, the provision of an elite arena for our players. Like, what do we want? To say we don’t have an elite arena involved in our Association so you should go and play other sports?
“I think absolutely we should be catering for the elite aspect of our sports and be proud of it.
“I would argue the county is as essential as the clubs themselves in terms of the unifying effect on communities and even the sense of pride in place that it offers, then not to mention the income for building grounds, the grants, the coaching officers.
“The laochs, the heroes, we know how important that is to the game, the lads who present medals at the end of the year.”
Cusack also stated his belief that many have gone out of their way to drive a wedge between the club and county games.
“A lot of the people who are making the most noise at the moment are actually people who make money or try to make money off the backs of these very same players.
“I do think we need to be very careful because if some of these people have their way the GAA will be as anonymous as the League of Ireland B.
“We have to be very careful in terms of that whole territory.”