By Michael McMullan
SLEACHT Néill manager Mark Doran is in favour the split season and feels the total focus on the club game is “brilliant” for clubs.
Doran, who was also part of Clare’s management team under Colm Collins this season, is well placed to speak on the topic given his experience in managing county players’ workload in his time with Ballybay’s winning team last year in Monaghan.
Parking the amount of travel between his home in Down to both Clare and Sleacht Néill, he can see the benefit for clubs.
He also gave the club’s county footballers the option of two weeks off after their defeat to Kerry with Shane McGuigan missing the opening championship game against Steelstown due to a battery recharge on holiday.
“I am in favour of it (split season) because, now, it’s club time,” Doran said after Saturday’s win over Ballinderry.
“I know there are a lot of high-profile people who are saying bring back the All-Ireland finals to September, but I do think it (current format) is really fair.
“If you look over the weekend, the focus on clubs is brilliant. You have Armagh, Down, Derry, Antrim and Donegal championship, so it is brilliant for the clubs.
“I do believe all the players are really in support of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not perfect and there are a few things need tinkered with and I am sure the GAA will do that.”
Doran explains how county players want to play as much for their club as possible, something that wasn’t possible in the past.
He contrasts Derry’s All-Ireland semi-final this season with a similar scenario in counties four years ago when players coming back from county action in September for “two (league) games” and a (knock-out) championship game not being enough for clubs.
“Derry were able to run a round robin league basis to their championship and they wouldn’t have been able to do that,” Doran said.
“Now, they (clubs) are getting their county players for eight or nine games whereas before, it was two games and then a championship game, which was no good.”
Now with the split season, managers, in Doran’s opinion, need to cut players slack after a taxing county season.
“When you look at the Derry boys this year, they were beat in an All-Ireland semi-final and they were probably the kick of a ball away from being in an All-Ireland,” said Doran, part of Down’s squad who lost the 2010 All-Ireland final to Cork.
“That takes three or four weeks (to get over). I made phone calls and said I didn’t want to see them (Sleacht Néill’s county players) for two weeks.
“They might say, they are physically ready, but, mentally, it takes its toll. When Shane McGuigan says he has a holiday booked, you are not going to say anything against it.”