Frustration is growing with an inability from GAA hierarchies across the country to nail down dates for club championships.
Clare GAA Secretary, Pat Fitzgerald says the problem must “be grasped once and for all”. He outlined that fixtures are becoming too flexible and club players are not getting the opportunity to play games in the summer months.
Fitzgerald pointed to the establishment of the Club Players Association as a sign that “enough is enough”. He suggested that teams in Clare will have to consider playing midweek games or more matches without their county players to tackle the issue in the Banner County.
In his report at the 2016 Clare GAA Convention, the county secretary stated “The old chestnut of domestic fixtures being out into cold storage for the summer has to be grasped once and for all. I’ve repeated this ad nausea; the frustration being experienced by clubs over the elongated club season is shared by the Fixtures Committee and the County Board. And what is patently clear is that there’s no easy solution unless hard decisions are made collectively.
“Our fixtures are becoming too flexible. Understandably no obstacles should be placed in the way of possible All-Ireland glory, at whatever grade, but similarly the club player can’t be held to ransom either.
“The games are being pushed out further and further and into a time of year when weather conditions may not be the best. The championship and the business end of them are being condensed into a short enough timeframe when fixtures become rapid fire. That needs to be addressed because the summer months are becoming a barren time for club championship action when really it should be the peak time.
“Under the current system, one would have to be closely aligned to a club team, be it as a player, mentor or supporter, to understand the level of frustration. Club players are left in no man’s land and some can even head to the States for three months in the summer and conceivably not miss a championship game.
“However, the level of frustration and disillusionment among club players is understandable and getting more acute with each passing year. Unfortunately, the whole championship structure, as currently designed, leaves little room for manoeuvre and in Clare the problem is compounded by the large number of dual clubs and players.
“It seems the only show in town now-a-days in the key months of the year is county activities and club players are in limbo land, training away without having a specific date to target for. But the winds of change are certainly blowing up. Club players have cried ‘enough is enough’. A Club Players Association has been formed with the stated goal of having ‘an unchangeable meaningful fixtures programme within a shorter season for every club player’. The Club Players Association will also be the voice for the club player and aims to protect their well-being by pushing for a shorter and more condensed club season. That’s all well and good and as aspirational and well-intentioned as it may be, what are the solutions?
“Do we do away with the whole qualifier structure and revert back to a straight knockout championship. Somehow I don’t think that will wash with either the participating counties or the organising authorities.
“The fixtures committee are getting some flack over the drawn out nature of the Cusack Cup and Clare Champion Cup campaigns. It is my opinion though that unless there a willingness by clubs to facilitate mid week games under lights or play more games without county players this practice will continue to be the order of the day.
“I think clubs have to give serious consideration to playing league games midweek and under lights. The argument that players have to get off work or that students have to return from college doesn’t wash anymore. These players regularly return for training and clubs can substitute such training sessions with competitive league fixtures. To me, it comes down to the old adage – if there’s a will there’s a way” he concluded.