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Opinion: Mayo Surely Only The First Of Many To Ignore ‘Club Only’ Month

Connacht FBD Senior Football League, St Brigids GAA Club, Kiltoom, Co. Roscommon 22/1/2017 Roscommon vs Mayo Mayo Manager Stephen Rochford Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Tom Beary

News has emerged over the last 24 hours that Stephen Rochford is planning on bringing the Mayo senior footballers on a training camp for a week in mid-April.

In previous seasons this would not even be noteworthy, however, with the restructuring of the hurling and football championships, GAA officials left April free for club activity only.

Considering the provincial championships sees some hurling teams playing four weekends in a row starting in May, the idea that inter-county bosses would not want to keep a close eye on his squad doesn’t make practical sense.

Add to that the fact that playing four weeks in a row is tough enough, but with high-intensity club games before that would mean a hectic schedule for players.

It is possible that such a club month would mean players will be expected to play at least six championship games between April and the first weekend of June. Then, if your teams progress to the latter stages of the championships, there are more games again.

In football, the intensity increases later in the season with the Super 8s replacing the traditional knock-out quarter-finals.

With all this in mind, it is hard to get too angry at Rochford, who according to the Western People, plans to hold a training camp between April 11 and 18.

This will, of course, upset many in the Club Players Association. That particular body lobbied heavily for the club window to be brought in. While they have a legitimate gripe with how the club calendar is currently operated, forcing players to line out with their clubs just seven or 14 days before a provincial championship match is unfair to all concerned.

Club Players Association CPA

It is unfair to the inter-county player who will find it tough to have 100 percent concentration on one game with another huge clash around the corner. It is also unfair on the club players who (assumedly) won’t see much of the inter-county players during the National League, then will have to use make as much use of them as possible over a four-week period.

Add to all this, the fact that every county runs both a hurling and football championship so you can only realistically get two rounds of each played – unless you ignore one code altogether which brings its own problems.

There is no easy answer to this situation, either. Completely separating the club and county seasons could lead to players on the go for 12 months of the year.

But if one of the hurling counties reaches the Super 8s in football (Dublin probably will, and you can’t rule out Galway, Cork or Tipperary) when will they play club games if not in April?

In hurling up until the 2017 championship, you could win an All-Ireland in four games, now it cannot be done in less than seven. With the All-Ireland finals also coming forward to August, if you are to play seven of the best teams in the country in such a short period of time, you will want your panel well rested ahead of the opening round.

So while the ‘club only’ month has come from people who are well intentioned, it is hard to see it working on a practical level.

It is hard to imagine that inter-county managers want their players competing in up to four competitive matches in April before playing four more in May.

In football too with the seven rounds of the league having less of a break in between rounds, managers will be anxious to have players back at full fitness in time for the championship.

Should a county take the qualifier route to the All-Ireland series, they could end up playing up to twelve championship matches to win the Sam Maguire Cup.

Other managers are surely thinking it, but Rochford and Mayo are only ones saying it out loud.

Expect more to follow suit.

Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena


Check out the latest episode of The 16th Man, as we hear from Con O’Callaghan, Mattie Kenny and Brian Cody.

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.