Players’ health and welfare has to be the number one priority for all involved in Donegal GAA, a leading medic in the county has warned .
Dr. Austin O’Kennedy, who was Donegal senior football team doctor for well over two decades, and is the current Four Masters club doctor, contacted the Democrat ahead of Jim McMcGuinness’s meeting with the Donegal senior and intermediate clubs.
The Donegal boss is due to unveil his plans for next season and in particular his blueprint on how club football should be run in the county in 2014 when he meets the clubs this Friday night.
“Any decision taken on Friday night has to be done with the health and welfare foremost in the minds of all those involved,” insisted Dr. Austin, who said that he hoped Jim McGuinness remains on as Donegal manager.
“Jim is the best man for the job. He has done a fantastic job over the last three years and I want him to remain on in the job as do the whole county and Donegal GAA followers everywhere.”
However, the Donegal Town based GP, who was very outspoken after Four Masters bowed out of last year’s Donegal Senior Championship, having played six games in three weeks, has a warning.
“We must never allow a situation arise like last year when the championship was run off over a five week period.
“We still have four or five players recovering from last year’s championship and it was last year’s gruelling championship that was the cause of Karl Lacey’s injury.
“It is for that reason that I feel so strongly about this and as a doctor I feel I have a responsibility to speak out on the issue. I saw the devastation and the damage playing the championship off over a such a short time span had on players last season. It is a serious health and welfare issue and one I hope all the clubs and those going to tomorrow night’s meeting take very seriously.
“Players and their health and welfare must come first and be the number one priority of all GAA men and women going to that meeting tomorrow night.”
Dr Kennedy also pointed out that county players make up 2% of the playing pool in the county with 98% made up of club players. He argues that these players should not be overlooked at the expense of county football.
He also warned that unless club players are treated fairly it will lead to more and more of them turning their backs on football and the GAA.
“I know from speaking to club players they are very disillusioned and many of them have told me if they are not catered for they will take up other sports.”
Among Jim McGuinness’s number one priority for next season is believed to be centred around the playing of the club senior and intermediate championship.
It is understood that the manager wants one or a maximum of two rounds of the senior and intermediate championship to be played in April.
He then wants the club championship to be parked up and not played again until Donegal exit the All-Ireland championship, let that be on All-Ireland final day or in the earlier rounds.
This, he will argue, will allow him time to prepare his team properly and unhindered by the club championship for next summer’s championship campaign.
The Donegal boss has no problem with league football and is quite willing to free up his players to play in the All County Leagues.
However, he does have a big difficulty with the club championship and players clashing in big club championship games in the middle of their county championship preparations.