A debate has begun to bubble up – here and elsewhere – about the planned round of club championship matches fixed for this coming weekend. There are valid arguments to be advanced on both sides of this debate – and I have sympathy with both – so I think it might be helpful to ventilate these a little bit further here.
Those in favour of letting the club matches go ahead would cite the interests and welfare of the club players and the desirability of letting fringe players on the county panel get some proper action. They can also – with some justification – point to the likes of Kilkenny, who let club matches proceed – with lads knocking seven shades of the brown stuff out of each other – right throughout the summer. There’s also the possibility that players could get injured doing inter-county training just as easy as they could playing club matches.
Those opposing the motion point to the inherent advantage the four-week break to the All-Ireland final has handed us. This has nothing to do with the fixing of club matches per se, rather it’s about the recovery-plan-prepare cycle. This timetable marks down the current week as the recovery one, next week and the week after (by which time, barring a replay, we know who we’ll be playing) as the time when all the major planning will be done ahead of the final, with the last week then providing the ideal lead-in to the decider.
Having our semi-final played – and finished with – a week before Dublin and Kerry take the field means we’re in a better place to them. They’ll have a more compressed timeframe ahead of the final, but only if we bin next weekend’s club matches. If we don’t, we lose a week of our timetable and instead of players being focused exclusively on Croke Park in September they’ll instead find themselves having to prepare for a very different short-term objective with their clubs.
I have to admit that this is a no-brainer: the club matches should definitely be postponed. I get all the arguments in favour of club timetables and all that, I accept that Cody’s lads may be happily ripping up tree trunks down by the Nore and bashing each other into a furious internecine frenzy on an annual basis but I can’t see why we’d want to throw away the important advantage the championship scheduling has given us.
Sure, it’d be great to see, for example, Aghamore and Ballintubber fight it out to the death this weekend. But, you know, I’d far sooner see the likes of Brendan Harrison, Alan Freeman, Cillian and Diarmuid O’Connor and Alan Dillon end their year with Celtic crosses and the same goes for all the other lads.
And, with the greatest respect to the clubs and their ambitions, what they’d be scrapping for next weekend isn’t on the same planet as that which the county team will be shooting for in four weeks time. We could still be talking about how we won this final fifty years from now (if the Good Lord spares us that long) but who, decades hence, will still be looking back wistfully on the final round of club championship matches played at the back-end of August 2016?
To put this issue in context, it’s worth noting that one of our possible All-Ireland final opponents – Dublin, who are already operating with the deck loaded in their favour to a ludicrous degree on almost every metric you can think of – put their club championship into the deep freeze back in April. It ain’t coming out of the tundra again either until the Dubs have finished playing inter-county football this year so why on earth should we contemplate playing club games on the same day that they’re playing for the right to meet us in the All-Ireland final? It just makes no sense that we should contemplate doing so.
My understanding – at 3,000 km remove, I accept – is that the players would prefer it if the club matches didn’t go ahead next weekend. In my book, that insight trumps all other arguments.
I know I’ve led the witness fairly forcefully on this one but I’d still like to conclude by testing the waters of public opinion on what I firmly believe could be a decisive factor in the lead-in to this year’s All-Ireland final. So, then, what do you reckon: should next weekend’s club fixtures be postponed to ensure better preparation for our push for All-Ireland honours this year?
Should this weekend's club matches be postponed?
- Yes (73%, 501 Votes)
- No (27%, 182 Votes)
Total Voters: 682