Cahal Carvill


THE price of the pound is soon going to be worth less than a certain American rapper, mortgage rates per month will shortly cost you a number of your vital organs, your pension pot won’t be enough to buy you a Freddo and filling your tank with oil will likely cost more than an Oligarch’s beach house.

But as we face into the economic abyss, at least we have the club season to distract us from the fact that we will all be eating out of food banks. Escapism on a grand scale is the order of the day!

Two weeks ago, the GAA club season delivered. For games played in Ulster from Thursday to Sunday, unbelievably 44 per cent of the senior club football championship knock-out games went to extra time, 10 out of 23 (hat tip Mr Niall McCoy), with a number going to penalties.

Most notably All-Ireland Club champions Kilcoo were taken to sudden death penalties by Clonduff – who of us saw that one coming? Ten games delivering edge of your seat entertainment, with each punter getting their monies’ worth, with 90 minutes plus of club pride and passion on show – the ultimate form of diversion.

The split-season has divided opinion of late but for those involved in playing and administering club games at any level, it has been a roaring success. The inter-county players too have commented on how the split-season has facilitated the players, allowing them to give their best for both the club and county without overlap or conflicting pressures.

Shane McGuigan told the Derry Post following Sleacht Néill’s record tenth Derry county title in-a-row that, “the split-season has been brilliant for us” stating that, “for a few years it was tough going, trying to balance both codes and  focusing on [county] league games”, describing the previous overlap and administration of both club and county games as “a bit of a mess”.

2020 Hurler of the Year, Gearoid Hegarty is also an advocate of the split-season stating that, “I’m personally a big fan of it,” citing the thousands of spectators that attended the August intermediate league game between local rivals Clarina and Kildimo/Mungret as an example. He went on to say that “I know it is tough but in my opinion, as a player what you want is games.” “You don’t want a game followed by a five-week block of training before your next games” and “players want games, spectators want games. I think it’s great.”

Some high-profile GAA pundits such as Donal Óg Cusack has lambasted the split-season but having been to many of the local Armagh and Tyrone Championship matches over the past number of months, of the record crowds that have attended I have never heard one person deride the split-season.

There may be vested interest in the high-profile GAA pundits’ derision as they may be seeking to feather their own nests when it comes to promoting an extended inter-county season.

Despite these calls from the vested interest groups, the GAA must remain resolute. The Association continues to trot out the mantra that the club is the life blood of the Association and ff they stick with the split-season, the heart of the clubs will continue to beat again.

Unbelievably in Cork there are 218 more GAA clubs than there are in Kilkenny – with eight divisions, the Cork Junior Hurling and Football  Championships alone comprise over 100 teams.

Imagine trying to plan for that in a normal club championship season commencing in September. Of course each county is different but for me getting the chance to play Armagh Hurling Championship in August and September has been a revelation.

It has also allowed for the first ever  round-robin of the senior club hurling championship, on great pitches with the sun on your back, not the rain and gutters that I had become accustomed to earlier on in my club career.

We are no doubt headed for a winter of discontent but if we can enjoy the next few weekends of club championship before the inter-provincials commence that might just sustain us until after Christmas.

The country may be in economic turmoil and the price of turning on a light switch may be enough to bankrupt us this winter, but at least we have the GAA.

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