As the inter county season comes to an end, the debate over the scheduling of the GAA Spilt Season is now gaining increased scrutiny from the national media and the general GAA population. Followers will know I was against the Split Season from the offset and to be fair my opinion is just as good and better than most of those journalists, who unlike me try to make money out of what they write (Well let’s be honest it’s no secret I don’t make any money out of what I write! Unfortunately). What I’d do for clicks? So here are 5 reasons why I believe the scheduling is not good.
INTER COUNTY IS THE REAL RECRUITMENT ATTRACTION
Whether people like it or not the real recruitment attraction is the Inter County scene. Bigger audiences that are commercially more attractive. Seriously how many children really go out in the back garden and play a county final. No, they are way more likely to play in an All-Ireland final. Dream on if you think there are many playing county finals in the garden especially if their club is junior or Intermediate. Therefore, the best recruitment time is when they go back to school in September which should be flooded with the best PR tool. Traditional All-Ireland time. As adults we know that the club is the foundation of everything in the GAA, but these are children. Ask any of them yourself, All-Ireland Final or County Final?
TIMING OF CLUB COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIPS DO NOT SUIT MANY PLAYERS
It’s August and all county Championships are gathering pace, some even as far as the county finals. July and August are now peak for most county club championships, especially, if the County team didn’t reach the All-Ireland Finals. But a large number of the players are not available as they are on holidays, J1s or travelling for the summer. They are due back in September. Many are missing the bulk of the league championships, if not all in some cases. It’s not a majority, but over time, it will influence, the next bunch of young players as to what sport they will commit to. Not much point in committing to a sport where you will not be around for the bulk of the main competition or have to commit your main summer months to staying around. A commitment formerly reserved for the elite inter county player.
TIMING OF CLUB COUNTY CHAMPIONSHIPS DO NOT SUIT MANY MANAGERS/MENTORS/COACHES
One thing that really infuriates me, is the pro Spilt Season people are only concerned about players. Ask the players they say! What about the club managers, mentors and coaches? Do they not have an opinion. Obviously, they want to do the best for their team and have all the best players available and not gone travelling. The majority are volunteers still. This category of person is more likely to have a family of children that have summer holidays in July and August. Are they not entitled to a break in these months for their own holiday with family? I suppose the whole concept of the Spilt Season was pushed by an organisation called the Club Player Association. An association that pushed an agenda which the GAA foolishly conceded to, only for them to run into the abyss when they got their way. No proper discussion, or debate. Just a GAA President looking for self-fulfilling glory. Let’s remember none of these players would be anywhere without the voluntary contribution of the club mentors and coaches. Appreciate them! Give them a break too, when they can take it.
AFFECT ON CLUB TEAM SPIRIT
The morale of many club players will be torn to shreds. They more or less expect the inter county player to walk back on to the team when they return. They are meant to be quality. But what about those ordinary club lads that do go travelling and appear back in September for major knockout matches in counties that haven’t played their finals? You know what the lad at the edge of the team or panel is going to do next year. Yes, they are not going to waste their time keeping the jersey warm for the prodigal sons!
THE MATHS OF KNOCKOUT CHAMPIONSHIPS
The Maths of knockout championship sport is simple. After round one, 50% of the teams competing are out. After the second round, only 25% are left! Pity the guy travelling for the summer where the county championship is run off in July and August and his club team does not make a final! The elite inter county player expects to give commitment. People forget that for many ordinary club players, this GAA Sport is a hobby. Something they love to do in their spare time. Most of them have other loves in the 21st Century. It’s not the only show in town anymore. The Gaelic sports will not win as many individuals battles as it once did. The GAA cannot underestimate the competition. In a match you put your strongest player to go head-to-head in some form with the opposition’s best player. The Inter County Championship is our best PR tool as it is guaranteed nationwide and well beyond. Now the GAA is hiding it when it comes to head-to-head battle against the worthy and similar opponents of Soccer and Rugby.
There are many more points that can be made on this subject. The introduction of the Spilt Season by a now defunct organisation has been illogical. Yes, change was needed but a lot more debate and discussion were required. Our government would not make such a huge change without going out to the people in the form a constitutional referendum. The GAA deserve criticism on this. The rashness of the move does not auger well for future integration moves. The journalists will fuel this as before they were on one side, now they are switching rapidly. However, the people who should allow considerable change should have been the people with balanced facts and argument as in a constitutional referendum. Both sides equally promoted.
I am deliberately not offering options or solutions at this stage. I’ll wait to see whether this August blog gets any serious traction. I suppose to be fair there is never going to be any easy solution. More games at club and county and Nobody has done anything about increasing the hours in the day or the days in a year! Please, feel free to comment or share. I will respond to any genuine comments. Let the debate truly begin.