We all knew that the club versus county fixture issue was going to come up; we all knew that at some point during the year that we were going to have the situation where the county management were going to make certain demands on their players not to be involved with their clubs but in April.
Let’s be very clear here. This has been going on for years but every year it’s getting earlier.
Statements from John Haran and Adrian Brennan hit the nail on the head this week about the calling off of a round of club fixtures on Good Friday. One would have to ask the question who is calling the shots in this county?
I have no problem with Jim McGuinness and the Donegal management team in all of this. They have a job to do and if they think that they can get a round of club fixtures called off to get a break for the county players they’re going to do it and that’s their job; do what is best for there squad.
John Haran is right when he said that if you’re seen to give out or say anything negative about club versus county your accused of being anti -Jim or anti-county. That’s the spin that’s put on it and that suits certain people but I have yet to meet any Donegal club player or member who is anti- county.
Adrian Brennan made the point that four of his players had made arrangements to get off work for the Friday round of fixtures; these are young professionals who have to book time off work in advance. G gone are the days of going into work, if you have any ,and saying to the boss I have a match at home, can I get the day off?
I have a good idea of the answer you might get. I wonder what kind of reaction did the county board expect when they decided to put the request to the clubs of a star fixture.
When the original fixture was made everyone, including the dog in the street, knew the Donegal team were having a training camp in Portugal and they knew the flight home was going to take four hours. They also knew that it was going to take a certain amount of time to get home from the airport so requesting games off for that reason is a bunch of you know what. As a solicitor might say, I put it to you that this was the intention in the first place.
I know how it works. I was there for years; the manager might suggest that we have a rest this weekend; one game will be enough. The players let the club manager know and he is up in arms having to play without his best players so naturally he will want the game off. The club official will let the fixtures chairman know the score and hay presto the county board can say the clubs wanted the game off and they were only doing what the clubs wanted, not their fault.
This gets everyone off the hook but a lot of the criticism will go back on the county manager. While everyone concentrates on who’s to blame the real problem just continues and the club players are still being treated with utter contempt.
I have no doubt that many of the club players would play away without their county players but because many managers are afraid of getting relegated or losing a few games they will not play without the county lads.
Of course there is a solution and it’s simple. Make a fixture list at the start of the year, make provisions for the county team at certain stages of the Ulster and All-Ireland championship and stick to it; stop some clubs dictating that they will not play without their county players; stop teams getting games called off for weddings, stag parties and least of all because county players are coming back from a holiday, sorry training camp.
Year after year we hear top officials in the GAA talk about the core of the Association, the club, the people at grass roots level, and the volunteers at the coal face. They tell us how the organisation is all about the club. Well in the last few weeks if the club member or volunteer, whatever you want to be known as, were reading between the lines you will know we count for very little,.
Did they ask us what we thought of the Sky deal and in Donegal the club players are still the poor cousin. Like a good friend of mine said the other day. nothing seems to change much for the man at the bottom.
We have to move on from here and club players have to take control of their own destiny in some form or another, whether it’s getting a representative or setting up their own organisation to look after their interests, in the same way everyone else in the organisation seem to look after themselves and yes that would be a club players’ union. We are getting to the time of the year were teams in America are looking for young lads to come out for the summer; they can sign as home-based players until the end of April so after the carry on of last week will that make up the minds of those lads who might have stayed on for the summer. We have a cruel way of letting our young players know what we think of them.
On a good note, maybe even a great note, six years ago one Seamie Coleman was playing in the Donegal League with Saint Catherine’s and playing Gaelic football for Killybegs C.L.C.G.
Last Sunday he was man of the match for Everton against Manchester United. Who said good things don’t happen to those who work hard and deserve it.