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Why it's utter madness by the GAA to cram inter-county matches into the first half of 2022

Croke Park Stadium

Croke Park Stadium

John Brennan

At last the penny is beginning to drop. What on earth is the GAA doing by cramming the part of its season that everyone is interested in, the inter-county matches, into the first half of 2022?

Kilkenny hurling legend DJ Carey let the cat out of the bag a few weeks ago. He said he would always either attend a match between Dublin and Galway and Cork or Wexford in the Championship – or at least watch it on the telly.

But was he interested in club games in those four counties, or in any county other than his own? No.

And so it is for all of the Irish sporting population who love hurling and Gaelic Football. They will watch the big games in Croke Park and Thurles and Clones and they will enjoy them. Are they interested in club contests at the other end of the country? Definitely not!

That’s one thing about the GAA. So many people who love the games and the amateur ethos of the organisation are not actually members of the GAA. They feel as though they are, but they are not members of clubs, so they have no say when decisions like ending the inter-county season on July 24 are taken.

The GAA’s clubs are indeed the heartbeat of both the organisation and of so many local communities too. I happened to be in Naas last Sunday, and the town is now en fete, covered with flags, bunting and signs wishing their footballers well in the Leinster Club Final this weekend.

Does that really matter to anyone in Louth or Wexford though, or anyone outside Kildare itself come to that? And whisper it quietly, but there are probably plenty of people in Newbridge, Athy, Clane, Maynooth, Kilcock and elsewhere among the Lilies not too happy to see Naas prospering.

But it is for matches like this that the GAA have given up half the year. At a time when soccer, rugby and the NFL in America are all busy expanding their core seasons, the GAA is contracting the time when they put their sports into the shop window.

And for what, to play club Championship matches in August? The same month when teachers and students are away, when farmers and those who work in the hospitality industry are at their busiest, and the month when anyone who works in construction and its allied trades knows they have two weeks holidays coming.

The figures presented by Martin Breheny in the Irish Independent yesterday put what the GAA are doing in a stark colour. 92 per cent of all this year’s GAA inter-county matches will have been played by the end of May. May, the month when the Championship would normally get rolling.

Remember one final thing. When we heard of County Boards getting into fixture cock-ups, with County Finals being played at the end of November etc, you never heard of trouble in Dublin, Kerry, Kilkenny or Tyrone in that regard, the well-run counties.

Indeed your writer has a vivid memory of a conversation with Cork star Sean Og O h-Ailpin in which he said “By God, we had some serious rows with Frank Murphy (the former Cork County Board Secretary), but he got the matches played on time and without any hassle, you have to give him that.”

No, the counties that get into fixture trouble are the same badly-run ones that Croke Park have to bail out after projects go wrong. And to save their blushes the GAA is giving up its August and September Song. Madness!

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