IN this week’s edition of Gaelic Life there is an interview with Peter Quinn in which he talks about his opinion of the tier system. He is against it. He wants every team to get a chance to play for the top trophy. However, he admits that only Dublin or Kerry are capable of winning the All-Ireland title. A debate about tiers in the GAA at intercounty level sometimes ties in the issue of the tiers at club level, and uses that development as an example of how tiers could work. Yet sometimes I think there is misunderstanding about the need for tiers at club level. In the case of clubs like Cloughmills in Antrim, the lower tiers allowed them to attract players. Would a second tier at intercounty level attract more players to play intercounty football in somewhere like Antrim?
A FEW years ago, the Antrim forward Brian ‘Bam’ Neeson explained how his experience of playing soccer differed with GAA. He said that the GAA players train like mad for a short season, while soccer teams train for a short period for lots of games. He enjoyed the soccer training more. I was once told that six weeks is the optimal amount of collective preparation for a team heading into a new season. So with that in mind, don’t the Dublin lads who wanted to get out for training look silly. A collective session weeks, if not months, away from any on-field action, what were you thinking lads? What they achieved was furthering the belief that successful teams need to train many months before the season starts.
YEAH I know that half the country are probably bending the rules right now, and I know that a few lads having a bit of a kickabout isn’t exactly the riskiest behaviour of all time, but I still think the Dublin players who were caught training together last week made a massive mistake. Firstly, the GAA had driven home the message just the day prior that under no circumstances was collective training to go ahead until April 19 for intercounty teams, so they potentially jeopardised the return of matches, and secondly it’ll slightly tarnish things for them if they do go on to win the All-Ireland this year (they may have won it anyway, but people will say they’ll have had some sort of advantage over the rest of us.) Moreover, it’s hard not to be a bit disappointed in squeaky clean types like Brian Fenton, pictured. Brian, how could you?
I WAS speaking to Kevin Duffin this week about his role at Ballymartin. He’s a former Down player, and he had to hang up the boots a year or two ago as his knees are in bad shape. He’s lucky enough in a way – he can still go mountain -biking and climb around the Mournes, but it does seem like so many retired players are in bad nick physically. Collie Cavanagh’s another lad with knee troubles, and there are countless players who face the prospect of hip and knee replacements in their future years. It’s something that needs to be taken very seriously by the GAA, particularly by coaches. Training can still be pretty gruelling by all accounts, even if players aren’t completely flogged like they were in the past, but burnout and overloaded fixtures is still a major problem. Mid-week games have been suggested as a way to play off the league ahead of this year’s All-Ireland Championship, but the players need to be engaged with if that’s a serious prospect.
BY the time the next Gaelic Life hits the digital shelves, children in six of Ulster’s nine counties will have been back training in their pods. With the warm weather becoming more frequent, just about, it really does feel that we are starting to turn a corner. Personally I haven’t found the lockdowns too mentally taxing, but I realise just how difficult it has been for so many people. What joy then, to hear children back on the pitches laughing and kicking the ball or swinging the stick. In many ways, this is one of the biggest weeks in the GAA’s history. A warm welcome back, here’s hoping it’s the last time we have to say that.
THE revised GAA calendar is expected in the coming days, and the first thing I will look for is where the Ulster Club Championships are fitted in – presumably for all codes with the Ladies Association and the Camogie Association also likely to show their hand. While compiling a feature on Down’s most successful football clubs this week, I was looking at Kilcoo’s haul and the only thing that came to mind was that they would have been incredibly hard to stop in Ulster this year. They won their first provincial title in 2019, but the consensus within the Mourne county was that they were even stronger last season, and also had that experience of winning. The Magpies, or whoever comes out of any county, will hope to test their talents against the rest of the province later this year. It’s only fair.