Paul flynn scaled

GPA call for revolutionary change

GPA Chief Executive Paul Flynn. INPHO/BRYAN KEANE

By P.J. Cunningham

It was a case of a virus victory as the GAA response to new government restrictions which caused the cancellation of all games in Kildare, Laois and Offaly from last weekend.

And with new Covid-19 cases growing in the midlands area and across the country generally, there is the grim prospect that this new shutdown might be the start of what’s to come for other counties.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

Sign up today to get daily, up-to-date news and views from Irish America.

There is also the vista that should players start contracting the corona virus with their clubs that the planned intercounty games for the late autumn-winter season could become casualties.

However the GPA want the current difficulties being experienced to act as a springboard for change – by encouraging the GAA at central level to embrace the idea of a six-month, vastly reduced inter-county season.

There is widespread agreement that the current situation where clubs are very much the poor relations of the GAA cannot continue. The feeling is that if the status quo remains unchecked, the associaton will begin to hemmorhage huge numbers to other games because the tendency in counties is to run off their championships to suit the elite county team.

The call for change means that the two organiations representing players at both levels – the GPA and the CPA (Club Players Association) – are united in their demands for meaninful change.

The GPA wants a February- July inclusive intercounty season, leaving the other six months open for club fare. Such a proposal would slice 17 weeks off the current set-up and in particular release cherished months in early autumn for club activity.

Aside from the practicality of giving time back to the grassroots, there is serious merit for county boards in saving on the huge expense they carry for county teams playing over nine to 10 month periods.

From a players’ burnout situation, the GPA chief executive Paul Flynn said the feedback received suggested that the current almost year round cycle was “not sustainable.”

“The usual inter-county season runs for up to 40 weeks. However, the current season has been reformatted to fit club and county into 26 weeks. It is our firmly held view that this shows we should be capable of completing the inter-county season in the much-reduced timeframe,” he suggested.

As well as saving money, the players’ CEO believes it could lead to a restructuring of a new League/Championship All-Ireland competition.

While such a black and white season could lead to county players being unavailable to clubs until August each year, the current situation usually sees elite players only playing a handful of games at best before the county team exits the championship.

And while it is vital that the county game are given pre-eminence from marketing and other viewpoints, the new proposal allows county boards a 20-week window to run off competitions in their own backyard.

The fact that such forward thinking is being put forward by the GPA is quite revolutionary and should be given serious consideration by Croke Park to come up with a more equitable distribution of time between club and county player.

Shamrocks Wilt as Gaels Blow Hot

Who saw that coming in Kilkenny? All Ireland club hurling champions, Ballyhale Shamrocks were humbled by a 9-point losing margin as O’Loughlin Gaels showed their championship credentials at the weekend in Nowlan Park.

A brace of goals in th second half sickened the holders who led by a point at the break.

Jack Nolan got through for the first five minutes into the second moiety and the city side were cockahoop when Conor Kelly pushed the margin out to cause a seismic shock in the Marble City.

Basquel On Fire As Champs Lash Vins

Colm Basquel is putting his hand up in no uncertain terms to be part of Dessie Farrell’s starting Dublin XV this autumn and his 2-3 for champions Ballyboden St Enda's saw his club book a place in the knockout rounds thanks to a 5-11 to 1-17 win over St Vincent's at Páirc Naomh Uinsionn at the weekend. Goal thirsty Ballyboden also had green flag wavers from substitutes Simon Lambert, Donough McCabe and Tom Hayes in a 6-point win despite playing on Vincent’s home ground.