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All-Irelands must finish earlier to ease crippling club costs: Slaughtneil chief

 

By Declan Bogue

Slaughtneil camogie co-manager, Dominic 'Woody' McKinley, has sent out a clear message to the GAA that the current system of holding the club championships back to the middle of May is crippling clubs financially.

With the camogie final against Sarsfields of Galway - a repeat of last year's final - delayed, probably for another fortnight until March 18, the date to be settled early this week, costs to prepare Slaughtneil teams in camogie, hurling and football have spiralled past the level of any other club.

Last Friday night for example, the camogs had to rent facilities from the Tir Na nÓg club in Randalstown, and could not begin training until 9.00pm.

It follows a winter of travelling around the area to train in the indoor facilities at Dunloy, Lavey and Magherafelt, as well as running the lights, power and showers at their own clubrooms for the nights the gym is in use.

One clear method of cutting back all this unnecessary cost is to finish the All-Ireland club championships in the calendar year, rather than having teams continuing to train almost four months for what amounts to two games.

"The expenditure, you start to wonder just how they can cope with it. Even with their fields and going round various clubs and I am sure they have to pay something towards that," explained McKinley.

"The expense of training three teams preparing for All-Ireland finals, I would hate to think what it is costing them. But they never complain to be fair to them, anything we ask for, we get.

"But, should it be finished in the calendar year? Yes, and I have been saying it for years. We are taking so much out of players and we are clearing April for hurling and so on.

"But this is not rocket science, this year should be finished up in the calendar year, even if it was played under lights in Croke Park.

"Even if you opened Croke Park on a couple of nights and played two semi-finals and a final, hurling and camogie both. Why not do that? That's what it is was built for."

McKinley, who is also co-manager of the Antrim senior hurling team who have almost completed their league programme, added: "You take that schedule, and then you add the footballers and hurlers into that… they would be the same.

"There are people working seriously hard to provide the resources for that and I just find it very, very hard to see how they can do it. I know it is an unique thing, but they should not be punished for their uniqueness."

Another critical part of preparation for an All-Ireland series is the necessary weekends away, with the hurlers and camogie wing of the club needing to travel to Munster and Leinster to play quality opposition in challenge matches.

In that regard, they received exactly the same level of support from the club committee, revealed McKinley.

"We have done the same as the other teams in the club. We had a weekend in Tipperary and a weekend in Dublin as well, preparing for the match," he stated.

"That's one thing about the club, if you feel what you are doing is right, and they trust you with that, they will go with you 100%, because they want the best for their teams and there is no let-up, within reason."

While the next course of action for a club such as Slaughtneil has to be development of an indoor facility, or a floodlit all-weather pitch, McKinley sees the true worth in such a project, having lived in Dunloy his whole adult life and with his son, Antrim captain Conor, being able to use the Dunloy Centre of Excellence with its' impressive indoor facilities and almost taking it for granted.

The impact the centre has had was reflected in the praise the visionary group that conceived of and made the dream a reality when the senior hurling team won their first Antrim senior Championship since 2010, last summer.

"It's paid off on the pitch and I would say in a couple of years time it might be paid off financially. That will run the club for the rest of its' life, the income off it," acknowledged McKinley.

"There are a lot of smart people there and good people working at it, they have that vision to see that it could work. I am sure at the time, one or two of them questioned it as well, but it is going well for them."

After Thursday's early call-off, McKinley admitted there was an early despondency among the panel, but insisted it will not be long before they are in the right frame of mind for the final when it is eventually staged.

"It's always seriously disappointing when a game is called off and you have to lift it and build it all up again," he added.

"But we are lucky, because these girls are so self-motivated, it makes life so much easier."

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