County boards will shoulder all the blame should club championships not be completed on schedule this year.
That was the impassioned assertion of GAA director general Páraic Duffy in Croke Park yesterday as he delivered his 11th and final annual report.
By clearing April from all competitive inter-county games bar the Allianz Football League Division 1 and 2 finals on the first day of the month, Duffy believes there is enough room made for clubs so that the calendar year season can be achieved in the coming years. Duffy has heard inter-county managers claiming it is unrealistic to free up players to their clubs, but he hit back: “I don’t care what people or managers may say, it’s up to counties to make sure that they get the season off to a good start, beginning in April and putting on rounds of club games. There is no reason why any county can’t play four rounds of games [in April]. There are five Sundays.
“Why should there be a problem? It’s a problem if you think the clubs have no rights. Clubs have equal rights with the counties. Why should the county manager decide ‘no, the players won’t play with the clubs’? There is no reason in the world why club games can’t go ahead in April.”
Duffy even suggested the compromise that players train with their county panels during the week in April, but line out with their clubs at the weekend.
He also pointed out that the majority of counties will be in a position to return to club games involving inter-county players by the middle to end of July.
“By July 8, there will only be eight football teams left in the All-Ireland championship. Twenty-four counties have the rest of the year in football all to themselves, so any county that can’t produce a decent calendar themselves this year has only themselves to blame, providing they don’t let managers dictate to them.
By John Fogarty
GAA Correspondent Irish Examiner