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GAA bosses are reaping benefit as stars opt to shun travel

 

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Prime aim: Ryan Murray (right) is out to reclaim Antrim place after returning home

Prime aim: Ryan Murray (right) is out to reclaim Antrim place after returning home

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Paddy Tally

Paddy Tally

�INPHO/James Crombie

Prime aim: Ryan Murray (right) is out to reclaim Antrim place after returning home

Since preparations for the revival of the current GAA season commenced, one particularly encouraging element has emerged.

By general consensus, attendances at club training sessions throughout the island have been of such an encouraging nature that visions of significant progress have begun to form even within the most modest of outfits.

And while club managers, many of whom have already shouldered considerable pressure in relation to the Covid-19 threat and remain apprehensive going forward, are deriving fresh optimism from their players' commitment, county team bosses are also contemplating an unexpected bonus as they commence the countdown to a resumption of top-flight action in October.

Over the course of the past 12 months, the exodus of players from some county squads was of quite alarming proportions, while the drift from others was an unwelcome irritant.

Now, as county managers focus even more strongly on the restart of collective training on September 14, they do so in the knowledge that the lure of global travel within the playing population is certainly not what it was.

The Covid-19 pandemic ensures that countries such as the United States, Canada, Australia and indeed England no longer appear to hold the appeal of marrying summer employment and a fresh GAA career, albeit perhaps on a temporary basis, for some players.

Even a cursory glance at a partial absentee list will provide compelling evidence of the headaches with which managers can be confronted because of players' desire to undertake what in some cases can prove to be extensive global travel.

Within the past year, Derry duo Michael McEvoy and Niall Toner have departed, Cavan boss Mickey Graham must now do without the considerable talents of Dara McVeety and Conor Moynagh, Stephen O'Hanlon is a Monaghan absentee, Odhran MacNiallais is unlikely to be seen in Donegal's colours while New York-based Niall Madine remains a loss to Down.

Lob in the likes of Mark White (Cork), Mark Griffen (Kerry), Michael Quinlivan (Tipperary), James Malone (Clare) and Ben McCormack (Kildare) and it can be quickly surmised that the GAA scene has been stripped of some of its top talent.

Now, though, county managers are finding that their hand is being strengthened and their morale boosted by the desire of players to remain on this island and throw in their lot with their respective home squads. Players, of course, will continue to leave squads for a variety of reasons - work or family commitments, disenchantment with their manager or loss of interest maybe - but on the whole the overall relative strength of panels provides encouragement going forward.

Down manager Paddy Tally was forced to do without bustling forward Connaire Harrison, among other players, last year before he returned earlier this year.

And with Ryan Murray having come back from Dubai to assist his club Lamh Dhearg and bid to regain his place in the Antrim team, this offers the Saffron county a dual boost.

The absence of some more experienced colleagues has seen newcomers get the opportunity to parade their skills in their county colours, and they provided fresh impetus as teams battled to make an impact in the Allianz League earlier this year.

When the competition resumes in October, there may well be a few more familiar faces on view as returning players rejoin the fold.

Down boss Tally, though, spells out what he views as the advantages that can accrue when more established players leave.

"We have brought in boys who want to play for Down, and that's very important. We have two more league games to play against Louth and Leitrim, and if we win these, we would like to think that we will make it into Division Two," said Tally.

"Having said that, all players are welcome on board because the door is always open."

This is a sentiment which is undoubtedly shared by his relieved colleagues as they continue to map out their plans.

Belfast Telegraph