Clare senior hurling manager Brian Lohan is calling for an earlier start to the 2020 Clare club championships in order to give more time to the county squad to prepare for the opening round of the inter-county campaign.
The GAA today confirmed that the format last used in 2017 will be in place for this year, with the round robin system shelved for now. It means the championship will revert to a straight knockout provincial campaign with a one chance All-Ireland qualifier for teams who lose out.
The inter-county hurling season is due to get underway at the end of October with the Munster and Leinster quarter-finals, with Clare due to find out their opening opponents when the draws are made this (Friday) evening.
The GAA have outlined that inter-county training is not permitted until September 14, with much discussion surrounding the consequences for those who break that deadline. With some counties seeing their club championships finishing in early September, Lohan is fearful that a prolonged campaign for his squad will leave them playing catch up with other teams.
“Looking at the Clare senior hurling panel, the majority of our players are playing both hurling and football. We would have serious concerns with the volume of games that they are going to have to play. If you look at a situation where a lot of our players will be reaching a quarter-final stage in both hurling and football, you would looking at a scenario where they would have to play six weeks in a row, and the possibility of that increasing even further. That is a big challenge for us. The Clare players should be able to compete in the Munster championship at the same level as other counties. We have a club championship that could be running into October so we cannot compete at that level. We are looking for a club championship that would be finished by September 20 and to facilitate that, you would need it to commence on the weekend of July 25,” he said.
Clubs in Clare are due to meet on Monday evening to discuss the proposed formats and dates for this year’s club championships and ahead of that, Lohan is calling for consideration to be given to the workload placed on county players in the lead up to this year’s championship, but also highlighted that players will have their chance in the club campaign to make their claim for a place on the county panel.
“The big thing is how players are going to adapt to the championship matches being on later in the season so it is a big challenge for all concerned. We have not seen our lads since March 11 so it has been a long road. In a team sport, you need to train as a team but unfortunately we have not been able to do that. That has been the same for most of the inter-county sides that are out there so everybody seems to be in the same boat. I am looking forward to the club championship because it is a big opportunity for our lads to play and get match practice while going out to compete and try to win with their clubs. It is important for us as a management that we are seeing players performing as well as they can for their clubs and being leaders for their clubs so we are looking forward to that. There is a bit of debate at the moment in relation to the format as to whether it should be knockout or what way it should be, but we don’t really mind what format it takes. However, if we are going to compete at the same level as other counties, we need the championship to be finished by September 20. There are an extra two weeks now available so we would be hoping clubs will bring that start date forward by one week and I don’t think that is being unfair. We also really want to thank all the clubs in the county for their support to date and in particular those clubs who gave us their facilities at the start of the year, we really appreciate that,” said the Wolfe Tones man.