CLARE football manager, Colm Collins, has said he cannot understand why clubs took the decision not to play club football or hurling championship games in April, which was designated as a club month by the GAA.
Clare was the only Munster county not to play championship in either code, instead opting to play five rounds of league games in football and three in hurling.
Speaking at Monday’s Munster championship launch in Bunratty, Collins said he could not comprehend why six of the seven rounds in the Clare football leagues are already played.
“Our football leagues are almost over and it’s not May 1 yet. I fail to see where the merit is in that,” he stated.
“We have one game of seven in the league left, which is ridiculous. Playing no championship in April was a decision of the clubs. I felt they should have played a round of football and hurling championship in Clare. Clubs decided that. I just don’t understand it. How do you expect to develop club players?
“What you’ll see now is all the club teams travelling all over Munster and Connacht looking for challenge games. It’s absolute madness. Let’s see how things go in Monaghan but it was nice to see something different. They have 18 league games,” he said, in reference to Monaghan’s decision to award five points for a league win involving county players and two for a game minus county players.
“All of the leagues in Clare should go on home and away and they should be on every weekend. This craic of there’s a stag party or this or that… When you have only seven league games, there’s too much emphasis on the value of the game. If you have double that amount, let them off on their stag party and they’ll have another game next week.
“Take a county player at this time of the year; they’ll nearly have 100 sessions done. A club player might have trained 25 times. How do we expect the club players to improve?” the Clare manager, now in his fifth season in the role, queried.
Collins said the county footballers did not train at weekends and feels that dual players did not enjoy the glut of club games throughout April.
“I think the dual players didn’t. I think there was no enjoyment in playing two games in-a-row. I think the non-dual clubs did enjoy it because they had their county players with them. But county players can only do so much. I don’t think it’s feasible if you want, on the one hand, your club player to develop but the only way you’re going to play a match is with your county players.
“We trained twice and we dropped the third session. We had a lot of dual players so we forgot about the weekend session. That was the only way we could deal with it. I’m surprised there aren’t more injuries, especially in the context of a county where a lot of players play both at club level,” he observed.
Clare will play Limerick for the fourth successive season on May 19 in the Munster quarter-final. Collins feels the provincial championship system is outdated and boring.
“What I can’t understand is why nobody is grasping this nettle and saying what a fantastic championship we would have if there was a group format with the 32 teams, where anybody could draw anybody? You could seed the top eight teams. Something needs to be done to make it a more equitable championship. Connacht throws up the same pairings and, at this stage, Leinster is a non-event.
“What you could do for the championship by showing a bit of initiative. The sky is not going to fall in if we do away with the provincials for a year or two. Just because something has gone on for the last 100 years, doesn’t mean that you can’t change it. Any place there is progress, you change things and do things differently,” he maintained, adding that the top one or two teams in each group could progress to the knock-out stages of the A All-Ireland championship, with the remaining contesting the B All-Ireland.
“The other thing is that the All-Ireland B needs to get proper status. Play the final on the same day as the All-Ireland, give them All-Stars and let them travel with the other All-Stars. Give them their team holiday. The minute you do that, you would have a lot of people saying ‘yes.’
“But, again, we’re going to have to spend the same amount of money getting that over the line. When the GAA want to get something through, they can get it through. The Super 8s was heavily canvassed. The business was done there. If there’s a referendum at national level, the government has to spend equally. The GAA threw that one out the window on the Super 8s with their ‘spend it all on my view’ approach,” he concluded
By Peter O’Connell