DECLAN MCCOY: Player welfare will dictate the split

AS I prepare for championship this weekend with St Bride’s, I wonder about the split season and the beautiful weather club teams were promised.

Only in Ireland will you see supporters in shorts and T-shirts, whilst under umbrellas and clutching winter coats as “the weather doesn’t know what it wants to do” is said a million times.

As a manager, you try to have all preparation done only for 15 players to take the pitch and throw their gloves at you with the instruction to look after them in case it rains. Cheers lads, sure I’ll put them in the magic pocket with your inhalers, car keys, gum shields, water bottles and jelly babies.

The game is 15 minutes in by the time you manage to haul it all to the dug-out. On further analysis of the split season, as I’ve previously referenced, I believe it will lead to the segregation of the club and county player.

I believe that within three to five years clubs will only have access to their county contingent for championship matches and this will ultimately progress to a complete split. Again, this is only an opinion that I have formed through my involvement in the club scene and not evidenced base, though I can make an argument for it.

Firstly, the narrative in punditry this year has emphatically been that GAA fans are missing out with the county scene wrapping up so early, and that the traditional September dates for finals should return. Secondly, the county season is being re-structured next year with a Champions League format meaning more games and further eating into the club window.

This year also saw an exodus of county players heading Stateside, and who could blame them? Once their county season wrapped up, a steady stream of players headed to America with many only returning in time for their club’s championship campaign.

You could argue that this has been happening for years and whilst this is correct, previously they would have played for their club in several league games and the split season now prohibits this. Anecdotally, I’ve seen several county players returning to their clubs but ‘minding’ themselves until championship. Again, that’s no league games for your county contingent in that scenario. I’ve seen county players handed out of season conditioning programs to be done during the club season, and this will become more and more prevalent due to the demand of the modern game.

County managers will want their players preparing for county all year round and in many cases will put pressure on players carrying knocks to sit out club games. The eventual split will revolve around player welfare. It is madness to expect the modern-day county player to jump straight from a gruelling season straight back into club football. Their bodies and minds need to recharge, and most will go on holidays or America for a well-earned break.

I can tell you now that county managers and club managers, in general, only see it from their perspective as they have the pressures of success riding on the backs of these players.

If you ask any of my county players, they’ll tell you I’m a torture. As soon as their county team is out, I’m looking them to train with the club the next day and confiscating their passports. A balance of some sort must be found, but I’m not sure what that is. There isn’t a club in the land that hasn’t had an auld boy leaning over the fence saying, “you’re better off having no-one on the ‘effin county, sure the club never sees them”. The same boy will be in Croke Park supporting the county next year bursting with pride that wee Jimmy from the club is starting.

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