In the aftermath of Four Masters being forced to play six championship games in three weeks, former Donegal county medical officer, Dr. Austin O’Kennedy, has called for a ‘Charter or Rights’ to be drawn for up for club players.
The respected Dr. O’Kennedy contacted the Democrat this week but was at pains to point out that there were no sour grapes regarding the Donegal Town club bowing out of the championship and he wished Naomh Conaill and St. Eunan’s well in the county final.
Four Masters were defeated on Sunday last in the county semi-final, but only in the final ten minutes when they had lost Karl Lacey and Conor Rooney to injury, to add to the other injuries and fatigue that the team were feeling. They had played five games in the 21 days prior to Sunday last, one of them (against St. Michael’s) going to extra-time.
Dr. O’Kennedy felt there was a need for the club players having a platform to voice their concerns. “Club players have no voice and someone has to speak up on their behalf. Club players have to be treated the same way as county players,” said Dr. O’Kennedy. “I’m speaking about the health and safety of players. Playing six games in three weeks is against the ethos of the GAA and I would call for a Health and Safety Charter to be drawn up,” he said.
Dr. O’Kennedy said he had made representation to the Co. Executive and Co. Fixtures Committee to get the game on Sunday put back to midweek. “The Executive said it was not their area. The Fixtures Committee were sympathetic but said they had to go ahead with the fixture.”
Dr. O’Kennedy said one of the fixtures committee did point out that 97% of players were club players and that he felt this situation should not happen next year.
“We (Four Masters) were not given the opportunity to put out our best team on the day,” said Dr. Austin, who said he was particularly disappointed for the likes of Barry Monaghan, Shane Carr, Barry Dunnion and Michael Doherty, who had represented the county in the past. “To look at the likes of Karl Lacey, after helping Donegal win an All-Ireland and then being forced off on Sunday last with a chronic overuse injury is just not right.
“I’m calling for a Charter of Rights for club players and I want it discussed. They have to be afforded the same dignity as county players.
“If we win ten All-Irelands and get 15 All-Stars, it will not advance the GAA in the county one iota if we treat club players like this. It is totally against the ethos of the Association,” said Dr. O’Kennedy, who said there is a huge anger among club players in the county over the issue.
“We cannot have the senior championship squeezed into a few weeks. This is nothing to do with us being beaten. It is all do with health and safety of the player,” he said.
“We have to get a discussion on this.”