The playing of the club championships all in one year right up to the All-Ireland finals is only part of the solution to the playing of club fixtures.
That is the view of one leading Donegal club football manager, Emlyn Hughes, manager of Four Masters senior football team.
The Four Masters boss was reacting to the decision of the Central Council of the GAA to agree in principal to a proposal from the GAA’s Football Review Committee, that all provincial semi-finals in both football and hurling be played by early November, the finals by mid to late November with the finals completed by December. “Any decision that improves the lot of club players and provides them with a recognised schedule of games has to be welcomed,” Emlyn Hughes told the Democrat.
“But I don’t think that decision on its own is enough unless the provincial councils and especially Ulster and Leinster, the two bigger provinces, condense their provincial championship and take up fewer weekends to play off their respective championships.
However, the Four Masters boss felt that another decision taken on Saturday may go much further down the road to solving the problem of playing of club fixtures and providing club players with a regular programme of games.
That was the decision to hand the overall responsibility for the co-ordinating of fixtures at all levels to the National Central Competitions Controls Committee in Croke Park.
“I believe that decision is a far more important one and has the potential to solve the problem of club fixtures once and for all.
“This decision gives the power to the National CCCC, the authority to come up with a national fixture schedule for the whole country, which will be uniform across the 32 counties.
“It will take the power away from the county CCC’s for the setting of schedules for the club programmes which should be positive as it will take away the pressure that county committees come under from time to time to postpone or call off fixtures.
“I imagine the National CCC will set dates for when counties must have their county finals played and the locals CCC’s will work back from there. It should be pretty simple really as long as there is a will to implement it to the letter of the law.”
For the whole plan to work Hughes also believes the provincial councils are going to have to play ball and be part of the process.
“In the case of Ulster, it currently takes ten weeks to play off the championship. There is no reason that it could not be played off in five to six weeks.
“There is no reason why say if, as we had this year, Donegal drawn against Derry and Cavan against Armagh, both of those games going ahead on the one day or at least one weekend.
“This could be replicated right through the championship therefore freeing up more Sundays for club games and quite frankly I don’t think the proposals which received the backing of Central Council will work if the provincial councils don’t tighten up their schedules. It is all about freeing up more weekends for club games.”