MANUS BOYLE COLUMN: Club players ready to strike for their rights

MANUS BOYLE COLUMN: Club players ready to strike for their rights

Last week the Club Players’ Association (CPA) issued the results of a survey they carried out of their 24,000 members. It seemed a simple enough survey - four straightforward questions.

The first question asked was - ‘As a club member/player are you willing to wait until 2020 for a change to happen to the current club fixture situation’? The answer a resounding no. In fact 91% stated they were not willing to wait.

The second question asked: ‘Do you think the club fixtures should be on the agenda for the forthcoming Special Congress in September’? Over 90% said yes.

The third question had somewhat of a rebellious tone to it: ‘Do you believe the CPA should escalate its response to demonstrate to the GAA that the club player is dissatisfied with their response to the unfairness to the plight of the club player’? The reply was emphatic; over 95% of those that took part in the survey said yes.

The final question asked: ‘Have you ever considered walking away from the game because of the lack of a definite fixture calendar at club level’? Nearly 60% said yes.

Questions one and two would only confirm that club players all over the country want the bosses in Croke Park to become organised and sort out the problem once and for all. They would like the situation to get a hearing in September and not later. We are very fond in this country of kicking the problem down the road and leaving it for someone else to sort out later. The only problem with that is in question three the members want the CPA to escalate its response.

So what does that mean? What do the members of the Association, who voted over 95%, believe it meant? Does it mean asking club players the length and breadth of the country not to take part in a club game on a certain day; a ‘blue flu’ maybe, or is there any other way the CPA believe they can twist the arms of those in charge to take the plight of club players serious.

Would that be the right way to go? It may be the only choice that club players see as an option. We know from experience that the voice of the club delegate at county board meetings all over the country are drowned out if they place their club before their county. It’s now seen as sacrilege.

You can clearly see in response to the fourth question that players don’t really want to walk away; they want to play the games and they want to play for their clubs. Of all the replies this, for me, was the most positive. After all the years of being put as an afterthought by their county boards they still love the game and seem willing to put up with some bit of hassle but definitely want a better fixtures calendar so the club player does not have to be playing in the depths of winter.

We know this problem hasn’t just emerged overnight. God knows I have talked about it enough but now that a group has been set up and asked members for a clear vision those that run our games need to take heed. Yes, we get the usual bull about the club being the heart of the GAA; we listen and see all the media hype that’s fired out every year in order to brainwash those who still believe that sort of crap.

But change is inevitable; organisations evolve, different people will come in and see without the clubs doing the work they do that the inter-county game will suffer; standards will drop. It may not be the sellable product it has become for the television companies. If they pull out so does the sponsors and the money dries up; the same money that built Croke Park; the same money that goes into county grounds and so on. It’s like any building that isn’t built on good foundations, it will come crashing down.

Whether or not those that are responsible - and of whom many are paid - take any heed of the survey or indeed the CPA, they have been warned. Long gone are the days of people being blind and uneducated in what is going on; people understand the politics that are involved in big organisations. Young people are better educated than the generations that came before them; they are unlikely to be swayed by the usual lines we have become so used to being fed.

Bob Dylan wrote a long time ago that ‘the times they are a changing’. For those within the GAA maybe it’s time wake up and smell the coffee.

BRILLIANT GAME

Brilliant game at the weekend between Kerry and Mayo, the first real contest since the championship began last May. Kerry were slow to start and looked a bit rusty; Mayo, on the other hand, were quick out of the blocks and only for a number of soft frees would have been in front going in at half- time. If there was a negative it was the performance of the referee. I hate picking on one man but from looking in he didn’t like the ferocity of the Mayo tackling; he blew them up every time. He didn’t want any physicality to develop on either side. He was asking players to calm down. Why? It’s an All-Ireland semi-final; this is not just another game. They may never get there again. They’re sent out to give their very best, it’s expected of them. The nature of the game is supposed to be physical.

Apart from that it was brilliant to see two even sides go at it. Whether the replay reaches the same standard only time will tell, but not nearly enough credit goes to these lads. One point that was noticeable, Andy Moran, Keith Higgins and Kieran Donaghy, all nominated for man of the match awards are all over 30. They showed all the great arts of the game in their polished displays last Sunday.

As a good friend of mine says, not just a young man’s game.