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Pat's view Kerry's shirts, Ed Sheeran and the problems in GAA - I have too much on my mind this week

Split season isn't improving player welfare with the schedule of higher education and inter-county football ties needing a tweak

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Ryan Basquel of Dublin loses his footing under pressure from Dara Moynihan, right, and Seán O'Shea of Kerry during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match at Austin Stack Park in Tralee. Photo by Sportsfile

Ryan Basquel of Dublin loses his footing under pressure from Dara Moynihan, right, and Seán O'Shea of Kerry during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match at Austin Stack Park in Tralee. Photo by Sportsfile

Ryan Basquel of Dublin loses his footing under pressure from Dara Moynihan, right, and Seán O'Shea of Kerry during the Allianz Football League Division 1 match at Austin Stack Park in Tralee. Photo by Sportsfile

THE new split season was supposed to aid player welfare. Don't make me laugh. The GAA is still only paying lip service to the issue.

Our young, elite, footballers continue to be flogged.

Bad enough that the GAA has front-loaded inter-county competitions to the first part of the year.

Now we have the ludicrous situation of more games being played in January and February than at any other time of the year.

But a bigger scandal is that dozens of young footballers are expected to juggle inter-county and higher education football careers at this time of the year.

I was with Oisín McConville in the RTE studio last Sunday night. He manages Dundalk IT.

He was fretting over whether the three Dundalk IT players playing for Monaghan would be able to play for Dundalk in the Trench Cup in Tuam 48 hours later.

This mad schedule does have consequences. Having played against Donegal in the Allianz League on Sunday, Mayo's Tommy Conroy lined out in the Sigerson Cup quarter-final on Tuesday night.

Sadly, he suffered a cruciate ligament injury, ruling him out of the season. It is a cruel blow to the player and to Mayo.

By this evening, a plethora of footballers will have played three demanding games; two in the Allianz League, as well as the Sigerson Cup quarter-finals, in the space of nine days.

The jewel in our Kerry crown, David Clifford, will be one of those having featured against Kildare and Dublin, as well as for the University of Limerick in the Sigerson Cup.

Two of those games involved long road trips to Newbridge and Abbotstown respectively - and in his case the three games were squeezed into seven days.

It is just bonkers - because it could be resolved by tweaking the fixtures calendar.

The higher-education championships could begin a week earlier, the back-door element of the Sigerson should be abolished, and the start of the Allianz League could be delayed by a couple of weeks to avoid any overlap.

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As I have repeatedly written here, it is absolutely ludicrous that the GAA will not play the latter stages of the All-Ireland series in the month of August.

And I find the silence of the GPA on this issue particularly baffing.

Though I am a self-confessed addict, my head is fried from watching so much Gaelic football of late. In recent weeks I've tuned into seven Sigerson Cup matches; two All-Ireland club semi-finals, six complete Allianz league games and highlights from a fair few more.

There are so many ideas in my head. I'm not sure what will pop out.

Here are a few random ones for this week's column.

Am I the only one to think the attendance of 22,704 in Croke Park for Dublin v Armagh was pitifully low.

Given what they have achieved, Dublin footballers deserve more support from a population base of 1.3 million, but then so many of that figure have absolutely no interest in Gaelic Games.

Elsewhere, though, there were healthy crowds in Newbridge, Carrick-on-Shannon and Markievicz Park for the Mayo v Donegal game.

The atmosphere at these games reinforced my long-held view that the GAA should be building 10,000-15,000 capacity stadia, rather than their beloved 'Cathedrals in the Sky' vanity projects.

They're the equivalent of a lighthouse in a bog - brilliant, but useless.

And just to reinforce my argument, the Cork board moved the Cork v Kerry Munster football semi-final and the Munster hurling round-robin tie against Clare out of Páirc Uí Chaoimh, because it is hosting an Ed Sheeran concert.

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Ed Sheeran on stage at Croke Park in 2015. Photo: Arthur Carron

Ed Sheeran on stage at Croke Park in 2015. Photo: Arthur Carron

Ed Sheeran on stage at Croke Park in 2015. Photo: Arthur Carron

Obviously, it is more profitable to host a concert than the two games.

But these are sports arenas. Concerts are fine by me, as long as they don't interfere with the basic purpose.

Closer to home, Kerry GAA unveiled another new jersey recently. I'm not a fan.

For starters, I'm a traditionalist: I like football jerseys to have a collar.

Secondly, I don't get this fascination with incorporating the county's flora and fauna on the top.

Still, if Kerry won the All-Ireland wearing string vests nobody down here would bat an eyelid.

On a far more serious topic, the hoary old issue of the Kerry captaincy has reared its ugly head again.

As is their right, Austin Stacks have chosen Joe O'Connor to captain Kerry in 2022.

It is a surprise as Dylan Casey, who is also on the Kerry squad, captained Stacks to their championship success last year.

O'Connor is tipped to become a Kerry midfielder in the future, but he has never started a league or championship match for Kerry, and is most certainly not guaranteed a place this season.

The captaincy of the team has been a running sore in the county for decades.

Back in my playing days Ger Lynch voluntarily gave it up to allow John Egan captain the side in 1982.

Ambrose O'Donovan replaced Diarmuid O'Donoghue, James' father, as captain in 1984.

At the start of the 2001 Munster Championship, county champions Dr Crokes had no player on the team, so Seamus Moynihan took over as captain.

Eoin Brosnan came into the side for the All-Ireland quarter-final replay against Dublin.

He took over as captain for the rest of the campaign, which ended in a humiliating semi-final loss to Meath.

It was messy and certainly an unnecessary distraction.

We're supposed to be cute hoors in Kerry - not so in the case of the team captaincy.

It is vital that a team manager has his chosen leader on the field of play.

Think of the influence of Stephen Cluxton, Declan Hannon, Padraig Hampsey and Michael Murphy had in their county's All-Ireland wins.

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Dublin's Stephen Cluxton - the eight-time All-Ireland SFC winner - will not be back in blue. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Dublin's Stephen Cluxton - the eight-time All-Ireland SFC winner - will not be back in blue. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Dublin's Stephen Cluxton - the eight-time All-Ireland SFC winner - will not be back in blue. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Will Kerry ever learn?

But let's finish on a positive note.

Last weekend was a great one for the underdogs.

In their first match in more than a decade against the Dubs, Armagh gave an exhibition of football in Croke Park.

And what about London? In their first competitive match since February 29, 2020 they came from ten points down to beat Carlow.

Leitrim, rated among the bottom three counties in the country, ran the 2020 beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists Cavan to four points.

Waterford went one better - drawing with Tipperary, who were also beaten All-Ireland semi-finalists two seasons ago.

Finally, my wish came true last weekend with the disappearance of the water breaks.

The world continued to spin, and no player dropped on the ground, suffering from dehydration.

Better still, the Maor Foirne is to stay in cold storage, joining the brown bear, the Irish elk and the great auk as an extinct species. Yippee.

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