Belfast Telegraph

Growing disconnect between clubs and county will reach tipping point

By Declan Bogue

With the majority of Donegal clubs willing to accede to Jim McGuinness' request to park the club Championship until the county team complete their season, the position of the club player arrives back for another examination.

It's not an exact science, but it is commonly accepted that inter-county players make up 2% of the overall playing population. Over the past twenty years the role of a county manager has been slowly evolving to resemble that of coaches in commercial sports.

Although there may be some inter-county coaches accepting under-the-counter payments for their services, the level of scrutiny they are subject to is more in keeping with those who are rewarded handsomely in a full-time, professional role.

With such pressures comes demands, and within the limbo-land of professionalism and amateurism, friction has sparked in numerous counties in the close-season.

Perhaps this is no bad thing. Only last Saturday, the former Cork dual player Brian Corcoran said in an interview, "Constructive conflict is necessary in any successful organisation. You have to keep pushing and challenging each other, striving to improve, otherwise people sit back on their laurels and you won't be successful because others will have passed you out."

The counter-argument to this is that within the club structure, it can appear that only one side are giving ground on vital issues.

Should Donegal get to an All-Ireland final, the chances are that the clubs may not get the sniff of Championship until late September.

In the meantime, attendances at training will have plummeted along with enthusiasm. Clubs will put up with almost anything if their county is on the verge of a breakthrough and so it proved as the Donegal Championships were delayed in 2012.

If this latest proposal is approved and passed, then many other county managers will request something similar, so how it plays out in practise will be extremely interesting to all.

Another county team finding it difficult to come to terms with the structure of the GAA at present are Kildare, whose players took to Twitter last week to deliver their damning verdicts on the club delegates who voted against the retention of Kieran McGeeney as manager.

Some praised him for bring professionalism to the county, and his commitment to Kildare along with his bond with that group of players, could never have been questioned.

Undoubtedly, McGeeney raised the profile and the esteem of Kildare during his six years there.

Detractors will note the lack of silverware, the failure to beat any team ranked above them in Championship action (along with some frankly appalling results in Leinster), and their importing of the now-departed Seanie Johnston as reasons for his demise.

Either way, there are divisions between politics and playing, club and county, that threaten to destabilise the association. Don't be surprised to see some level of Croke Park involvement in the future.

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