Talking out of both sides of the mouth

This corner would love to know how the genii who came up with the split season in GAA came arrived at their final product? Was it don a blindfold, peg a dart at a board and just roll with wherever it landed?

Because whoever thought it was to the benefit of clubs and club players must have got their advice from the Tooth Fairy. There were already enough factors putting Gaelic Games in peril during the summer without the so-called guardians of the game throwing vinegar in an already rough looking soup.

Depending on how club competitions are structured from one county to the next, a significant proportion of the club playing population are now bereft of game time until next February most likely. Utter lunacy.

In the 32 years since I began attending matches, myriad changes in competition structure and playing rules have been trialled and, in a lot of cases, implemented. Most of which have been for the betterment of our games. Ironically, though, the one dictum which should have been kept on – limitation of the hand pass – was tried in one National League campaign (1994) and thereafter never seen again.

Obviously, over the years, some of the measures were not only welcome but have improved our games immeasurably. Namely, taking frees and line balls from the hand in football, red and yellow cards and the introduction of the Back Door systems in all codes. Even if they do need refinement once again.

Change for the sake of it can often be highly counterproductive. It’s a different GAA world now to when I began going to matches and eventually got involved at a much deeper level.

Have too many people a say in the running of things now? Make up your own mind, but, it’s worth recalling the old adage about too many cooks spoiling the broth. If something isn’t broken, why start meddling with it?

Probably since God was a gasun, three rounds of the National Leagues were played prior to Christmas. With the remaining quartet of fixtures resuming in February. One can only assume that, back then, the thinking behind it was due to the increasing appeal of the AIB All Ireland Club Championship with players, mentors and administrators alike.

That, though, is bovine dung. At the time, there would have been only players from one club unavailable to county managers owing to involvement in the Club Championships. Even now, that number would only be three clubs (Senior, Intermediate and Junior).

Dunshaughlin Denis Kealy battles for possession in the 2002 Leinster Club SFC Final

The point is, there was no reason for the winter rounds of the leagues to be discontinue. Play on without representatives of the county champions and bring them in for the spring encounters. As was always the case.

Moreover, as if all the above wasn’t evidential enough, the propaganda that the split season was for the benefit of the clubs is, slowly but surely, being exposed for what it is – the GAA talking out of both sides of their mouth.

Explain to me how it benefits clubs when all the new arrangements have succeeded in doing is (a) getting county boards to run off subsidiary competitions ridiculously early and (b) basically encouraged lads to snap up plane tickets, head Stateside, play a bit of ball and get a few bob for it as well. And more look to them.

If inter county players were looked after better – yes, paid – they wouldn’t have to go overseas to get the rewards their talent deserves. Now, as it happens, with county championships commencing in most places in early August, tourist players were mostly back in time for the big throw in.

Paul Mannion has been attracting attention and headlines with some brilliant displays for Kilmacud Crokes

That’s all well and good if, as in the case most pertinent here, somebody like Paul Mannion returns from the land of stars and stripes and, quite literally, kicks balls around corners as Kilmacud Crokes continue their quest to atone for the heartache of earlier this term.

However, where the sytem falls down is for clubs who don’t have good championship campaigns. Combine that with, close to home at least, secondary or third ranked competitions either finished insanely early or abandonned altogether and it leaves you with a situation where club players – who, remember, were supposed to be the chief beneficiaries of this bull dung – are left with a scenario whereby they won’t have a match for nearly five months. Hardly making them a top priority now, is it?

Whether the following was a dictum from authorities on high or being introduced by individual counties I am unsure, but, deciding GAA matches via a penalty shootout just doesn’t sit well in this corner.

Granted, it does add massively to the drama and excitement of any occasion, but the fact is it is a cobbled together mish mash of a solution to a problem that wasn’t really there in the first place.

How is it that for every year the Association has existed prior to this one replays have not only sufficed in sorting stalemates but also beqeathed the GAA some gargantuan pay days. Not to mention inscribed some of the greatest games in the long and storied history of the organisation into its annals.

Endeavours at creating a more balanced fixture system are indeed noble and necessary. But to invoke an agricultural analogy, to sow early crop and late crop produce only to leave productive territory idle at the best flourishing time of the year is counterproductive at the very least.

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