The Sporting Diary

with Sports Editor Peter Campbell

The Sporting Diary

Good launch for Donal

I got a ‘phone call from a worried Donal Reid on Saturday morning last. “Houston, we have a problem,” says Donal. “Naul (McCole) can’t make it.”

Naul was chairman of the Donegal Co. Board when Donal and Donegal won the All-Ireland in 1992 and he was to be one of the speakers at the launch of Donal’s autobiography ‘Confessions of a Gaelic Footballer’ which was launched in the Abbey Hotel on Saturday night.

“Will anyone turn up for this?” said a worried Donal, who had been receiving loads of messages of good wishes, but all of them also were saying ‘sorry but I can’t make the launch tonight’.

But he need not have worried. They turned out in big numbers for the launch, especially from his own local Finn Valley area. There was a great turn out also of his former playing colleagues, from the 1983 Ulster winning team and I counted up to 11 of the starting team from the 1992 All-Ireland winning team.

There was also a good smattering of the present senior panel as well as manager, Rory Gallagher. It was a fitting tribute to one of the ‘characters’ of Gaelic football in Donegal over the last thirty odd years.

At the end of a very successful launch on Saturday night (performed by Anthony Molloy and Frank McGlynn) Reid was a little more relaxed and was able to enjoy the occasion along with his wife, Maura, and daughters, Donna and Roisin.

The book, even at this early stage, has been receiving very good reviews and much favourable comment has also been evident that the proceeds from the book are going to the charity Pieta House.

It was a pleasure to have a small involvement with Donal in the production of the book and credit must go to Erne Print in Ballyshannon for the excellent layout. It is a very readable product which reflects the Reid. It is very well put together and will definitely keep you interested from start to finish.

I’m told it is now available everywhere throughout the county.

Club crisis

Everywhere you turned last Saturday night at the launch of Donal Reid’s book, there was a GAA discussion going on. And the main topic of discussion was the proposal to start a Club Players’ body to look after the interest of club players and the proposal by the Croke Park hierarchy to introduce a ‘Champions League’ type format for the closing stages of the All-Ireland football series which would see the top eight teams divided into two groups of four.

With clubs already being squeezed by the Qualifiers, it seems that the new proposal would see the successful counties involved from early May to the end of August.

No wonder the call for a Club Players’ body is gaining momentum.

An example of what the new Croke Park proposal, which is set to go before Congress next year, and would come into effect in 2018, could see Donegal drawn in the preliminary round of the Ulster championship on the first Sunday in May and if they were successful, playing the All-Ireland final on the last Sunday of August.

It certainly would mean that there would be no club championship until September.

It comes across very clear in the proposals that the starting and finishing point is the drop in attendances and revenue. Having six games in the group stages at the end of July/beginning of August would be a good platform to market the games, but there has to be a way of condensing the overall championship to allow for club games.

It seems to be unpalatable to introduce a two-tier championship, but surely that is the only way to cure most of the ills. It is very clear that a large number of counties are just not competitive in their provincial championships or in the All-Ireland series. Having an A and B championship (or Division One and Division Two, whatever you want to call it) is so obvious. Teams can earn the right to play in the top flight, and there will be less of these meaningless games that occur each year. Surely if teams are more evenly matched, then supporters come out in greater numbers. It would also create a situation where the overall championship season could be condensed, which is the only way to create space for club football.

By not dealing with the county season, Croke Park has added to the club player unrest. The club players deserve a clear and defined fixture plan so that they can plan their lives. Making it up as they go along is no good anymore. These are amateur players and they deserve better. It is only natural that they would eventually organise themselves. When they see millions being handed over to the body that looks after the welfare of county players (the GPA), they must have thought - ‘we could have some of that!’

Could become messy!