Belfast Telegraph

Club schedule a mess, but can be fixed with resolve

By Declan Bogue

So what do you do on a Wednesday night? Do you go to a leisure centre for a swim or the gym or is your evening dominated by getting the kids' homework done and bedtime, eating dinner, preparing for the next day before flopping onto the couch for a few minutes of Champions League highlights before your eyelids become heavy.

If you are a footballer with St Vincent's or Ballymun Kickhams, you will be playing in the Dublin county final replay.

This week it was reported that 90 per cent of inter-county football and hurling takes place over the first six months of the year. In August and September, there were two games of football played each month.

So why are we so behind schedule? As a further illustration of the point, whoever wins the Dublin Championship will face St Loman's of Westmeath this Sunday in the first round of the Leinster Championship.

From time to time there are studies on on the falling numbers of club players due to emigration. Each year we watch for the numbers of transfers out of the country to clubs in London and Sydney and wring our hands with despair.

The truth is that football and hurling is not enough to keep young people at home, especially the way it is organised and treated by county boards.

There was a time when the 14-day rule, which meant that club games could not be hosted within two weeks of a county's engagement in Championship football, applied. At the time that seemed a bit much, but now county managers informally dictate a 21-day rule.

This creates a level of resentment that sometimes stirs up the natives into taking some action. Those who feel that Kieran McGeeney's departure from Kildare was down to the progress of the county team are sadly naive. It was because the club scene had become so utterly eclipsed in importance by the county team.

AS the ordinary clubman has no voice, we don't hear of this level of dissatisfaction until drastic measures occur.

Inter-county is where it's at for most and any player at the centre of a fixtures logjam will be sympathetically asked by reporters to express their disappointment at a county boards' scheduling of fixtures.

Between Dictaphone and newspaper, these moans can flower from mild criticism to a player 'blasting' his respective county board.

Nobody asks the poor club player how he feels about having to play three Championship matches in a week.

One man who might stop this rot, and isn't afraid of potential criticism, is Eugene McGee.

His Football Review Committee are due to publish their recommendations for competitions and structures in early December.

Early indications are that the lot of the humble club player could be in for significant changes. And not before time ...

Belfast Telegraph


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