I THINK it’s fair to say that we will all be happy to see the back of 2020. It has been a trying and testing time on all fronts and we live in hope that 2021 brings a brighter horizon.
We can be thankful that during this pandemic we managed to play off our championships and for that we must be grateful, but we live in hope that in 2021 we will return to something that feels a little more normal.
We have all been through so much this year and I highlighted last week how important our sport was to our mental well-being. Getting to see the games was fantastic but we hope that in 2021 we are allowed access again and before long the terraces and stands will be packed with passionate spectators.
Although it was a year that will live long in the memory for all of the wrong reasons, there are some positives that we can take from it.
We are now on the verge of heading towards a split season and, in truth, that probably wouldn’t have happened without this pandemic. During this crisis we were afforded the opportunity to see how a split season may work and I think that the benefits far outweigh the negatives.
This year‘s county season will begin in a few weeks’ time and will hopefully be wrapped up by mid-July. That allows county players to focus solely on their county team without being pulled and dragged to play and train for the club as well. Likewise, club players now have a clear calendar and they know exactly when their games will take place.
Hopefully if it all goes well and with no further lockdowns in the New Year we should see a structure that enables both club and county games to flourish. Having been on both sides of the fence in terms of playing for the county and trying to do your best for the club and then being a club player and expecting your county players to be at their best all of the time, I understand just how difficult that task was.
I think this new approach will bring a freshness and could see our games develop even further with more players playing the game and less players walking away. Very rarely will you have this issue of players leaving and not playing with the county team but for clubs up and down the country this has been a thorn in their backsides for the last number of years.
You cannot deny a young lad the opportunity to travel and when you cannot give them a concrete plan or schedule then it is very hard for them to sit by and simply wait. Players must be afforded the opportunity to have a life outside of football and if that happens I actually think that they will have more hunger for the game.
I’m sure it happens in every club whereby at the start of the year the managers ban players from going on holidays etc, but I’m not sure that this is the right approach. Now that we have a certain date nailed down players could be afforded the opportunity to take breaks away with friends or holidays with girlfriends during a window that suits both the player and the team. With these little changes we could actually see more benefits in terms of how that player plays.
A club player’s season has now gone from 13 or 14 months to around seven. Before this pandemic. and if you go back over the last 10 or 12 years, club teams would probably be back training in November with no idea when their championship games will be played and more often than not those games would not be played until September or October time.
When we look back at that structure now it’s absolutely crazy but at the time we just accepted it for what it was. With these new structures teams, players and managers can now sit down and plan and ensure that their training schedule and calendar are both realistic and fair for everyone involved.
Likewise for the county team, expenses should be slashed as teams are now preparing for a shorter period of time and it just makes more senses for everyone.
That new structure is probably the only positive thing we can take from this whole mess as like I said, we live in hope that 2021 is better on all fronts.
Finally I would like to wish you all a very happy and safe New Year. Bliain úr faoi sheán agus faoi mhaise daoibh go léir.