Burning issue tackled
New GAA Player Welfare Manager Paraic Duffy has flashed a warning that the Association faces "drastic choices" in terms of restructuring its fixtures programme if player burn-out is to be avoided.
Duffy, one of the most highly-respected administrators within the GAA, formally takes up his new post on January 1 but, in typical fashion, has already been addressing what he feels are key issues.
And the Monaghan man, whom many feel would be an admirable candidate to step into the role of GAA president in the forseeable future, makes no bones about just how serious the problem of potential burn-out really is.
"The only hope we have for reducing the demands on players is that they can work with a smaller number of coaches, less teams and to reduce the competition structures at inter-county level for a start," he said.
"In my opinion, we are going to have to make drastic choices somewhere to address this issue.
"The inter-county programme needs to be narrowed down - we have to have an inter-county programme to sell our games - but junior, intermediate and other competitions should go. We keep calling on these same elite players for inter-county teams all the time."
Duffy has drawn up a raft of proposals aimed at reducing player burnout and breathing life back into the ailing club scene.
He is convinced that it is vital the GAA tackle the demands being placed on elite young players.
He also feels the club scene, which has been playing second fiddle to inter-county activity over many years, is in serious need of an overhaul.
His proposals include:
Reducing the amount of bodies who make fixtures
Scaling down the inter-county programme
The provision of a structured inter-county programme to allow county boards to put a fixtures plan in place at club level
Provincial councils monitoring county boards with regard to fixtures and postponements.
Duffy said: "The only hope we have for reducing the demands on players is that they can work with a smaller number of coaches, less teams - to reduce the competition structures at inter-county level for a start."
"You have some chance of developing a coherent structure of games if you cut down the number of competitions."
Duffy's assessment of the overall fixtures programme will certainly strike a chord, particularly as more and more officials are expressing concerns about the value of certain competitions.
A number of leading Ulster players such as Sean Cavanagh, Gerard O'Kane, Michael McNamee, Mark Lynch, Ronan Clarke, Conor McGourty and others have been finding themselves in demand by their club, college or university, county, province and even their country.
Duffy is keen to see such demands pruned and a more cohesive fixtures structure introduced.