The idea of the split season in Gaelic Games reared up over the weekend when the Camogie Association suffered a backlash from inter-county players over the publication of its proposed season timetable.
This would have seen club matches prioritised in the summer months, in between a Littlewoods League campaign starting in the coming weeks, followed by the AIB Club Championships within individual counties, and then the Inter-County Championship taking place later along more traditional lines through August and September.
This, and the option of playing both County competitions first were distributed across the Camogie Association in December but with a divided response as to which should be adopted.
Speaking to County Chairs on Friday Camogie President Hilda Breslin said that “What we hope is the last surge in the Covid pandemic has restricted our options and left us with a very difficult choice. It is not possible to satisfy all of the genuinely held perspectives and interests at once. We have gone with the option that gets most players back on the field as quickly as possible.”
That the decision runs counter to that of the GAA in the men’s game and believed to be also the case with the Ladies Gaelic Football Association caused serious concern among players at the higher level who indicated in a survey arranged on Saturday by the Gaelic Players Association, that they would not participate in the Leauge if this calendar went forward.
That placed the Camogie Association in an impossible position and it has now taken the path of delaying a final decision by a week to seek further consideration from across the sport.
The problem is in the misalignment of the two codes, run separately to each other and the GAA, and the conflict in demands it would place on players across club and County.
The reasoning behind the Camogie decision is sound with Breslin adding that “Our clubs are the foundation of our Association. It’s important that there are competitive club matches for as many players as possible this summer. In this way, our clubs will be to the fore in revitalising the physical and mental health of young people in communities across Ireland.”
The split season was popular among players last year with all four codes bringing back the clubs first and not playing out the All Ireland Championships until deep into December.
That was an exceptional case but it gave a taste of how the majority of players could get active in the summer months, before the best of them the and only then committing to their County teams.
Maintaining the split season but flipping it to be County first similarly makes sense this year with less population movement involved in County matches and Club competitions getting underway for many still in June and for all in July after an earlier, truncated, County season.
Camogie and Ladies Football would be a few weeks later to accommodate playing the Finals in the deserved surroundings of Croke Park. and with three competitions at Senior, Intermediate and Junior, the knock-on impact on more club players would also be more so than in the Men’s game.
That is where the problem arose for Camogie with a realistic start to the Club Championships not being feasible until late August or September. There were other issues as well which meant that pushing the Championship back a while would be in the interests of the Association this year but now the decision is up for review again.
A poll of all Camogie players will take place over the next seven days to reach a view on how the season should progress.
The Ladies Gaelic Football Association and the Camogie Association have worked closely together in recent years. In Helen O’Rourke and Sinéad McNulty, they have two eminently smart leaders that have been able to work out clashes in the past year and can do so again.
Whatever decision is arrived at it should accommodate dual players at every level from County to club by aligning the seasons as best as is possible.
In the long term, a split season is the preferred option for most, bearing in mind that Intercounty generally has the biggest impact on a smaller number of clubs playing in the top few divisions of each county. For most players, they will still get to play, albeit without the best of the players wearing the club colours during the County season.
In a two year period though, where getting onto a pitch of any sort has been forbidden, the call for as many players to see meaningful games as soon as possible is a compelling one.
Commentary in the media, raising the temperature, is an essential part of modern sport, though probably not helping in this instance.
Governing bodies are there to govern. That’s what they are now being called on to do, trying to please as many as possible, knowing that not every viewpoint can be accommodated.
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