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COMMENT: County Managers Are Not The Enemy Of The Club

Derrick Lynch

In a purely sporting sense, it has been a really positive and uplifting couple of days. The prospect of live competitive action is now just days away, with the first two rounds of the O’Gorman Cup being played this weekend.

The ice has already been broken with teams taking part in various challenge games across the county and beyond over the last week as that long spell without sport finally came to an end.

All of it has of course to be tempered by the fact that we are by no means out of the Covid-19 shaped woods just yet, but thankfully for the first time since March we can see the track that will hopefully lead us through. The images from Dublin and the anecdotal stories from other places last weekend were not exactly encouraging, so it is vital that we do not lose sight of the fact that this is not yet over.

Live sporting action may have been off the table in recent months, but the debate around it never really seemed to disappear. At first, it was all about the speculation of when exactly the roadmap to return would come, and when it did the discourse turned to picking through it for the talking points. That was probably intensified by the fact that we had no actual sport to talk about so anything of that nature was clung onto to give that fix of the sporting drug.

For all that changed, there was plenty that stayed the same and in recent weeks the age old club v county debate has been back to the fore. It has always filled column inches and air time in the past but the veracity of the conversation this time around seems to have gone up a notch. It is no doubt a by-product of trying to squeeze everything into the last four months of the year, but it has really shone a light on the need to finally split the year right down the middle into two distinct seasons.

That is a topic for another day, but the more pressing issue is the manner in which the debate has painted the county manager to be almost the Cruella de Vil of the GAA. The divide between the club and county set-ups has never seemed greater, but the perspective of the unique situation which we find ourselves in seems to be lost in the whole debate. It is far from the perfect year, so the likelihood of finding the perfect solution is slim. The real issue here is the lack of leadership from the corridors of power on Jones’ Road which has come to roost over the last week in particular.

The fact that county training was permitted to resume within the window allocated to club action meant that a collision somewhere along the line was inevitable. It could all have been avoided by flipping the season on its head, and resuming with the county scene. Some would argue a trick was missed by not just scrapping the county scene and handing the remainder of the year to the clubs, and it is hard to argue against that.

The point about all the above is that none of those decisions were made by any county manager. They simply have to work within the parameters set out, and hope that everyone tows the line. County managers are club men too, so this narrative that they are nearly trying to destroy the club scene is way off the mark. If Croke Park had been stronger from the outset, a lot of this could have been avoided. The initial refusal to sanction teams who were gathering before September 14 was weak and has led to a serious escalation which now sees county chairmen in the firing line if their county teams are found to be in breach. There is also the argument that county players knocked out of their club championship before September 14 should be allowed to train, but if a date is set it simply has to be a blanket approach. The chances are that some club teams will have their marquee county players tied up until their county finals, while others may well be gone weeks before that. It simply would not be an even playing field if there are staggered return dates.

2020 will never be remembered as the ideal year, but hopefully it can be the lesson we learn from.


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