It would be easy for the CCCC to remove the unnecessary tentacles of stress

Tyrone will play Armagh in Round 1 of the qualifiers. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Neil Ewing: 'The GAA in its wisdom have decided that delaying any draw until 8.30 on the following Monday morning is the best option for a game that will be played five days later.'

Neil Ewing

The second most infuriating line in the GAA?

‘The draw will take place next Monday morning and will be made live on Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1 at 8.35am.’

The momentary bliss of the few minutes on the pitch and giddy dressing-room after a win is one I wish we could have enjoyed much more often. A high that can’t be bought, stolen or borrowed.

The knowing grins with lads whose struggles you have shared. The lunatic yelps of the colourful kitmen. A laugh at the texts received versus the silence of, another, defeat.

All the better if it’s a qualifier win. A season extended, indefinitely. The added bonus: most likely the next game is only a week away. As a player, that’s all you want: games.

No time for a post-mortem or worse still, downtime. Pull on the jersey and action. Getting to enjoy the essence of the game. 15 v 15; no bibs, no cones, spectators.

All that nonsense spouted about how tough it is to play week on week. Playing six/seven days apart is just about perfect. If teams aren’t playing, they’re training. Training intensively, sometimes too intensively.

Consider the League of Ireland player. Many are paid less weekly than some GAA players are due in expenses, and are also holding down jobs outside soccer. They manage to put in a weekly 90 minutes over a 30-plus game season. Somehow.

The difference? They have a fixture list, an outline of where they’ll be each weekend from several weeks before their season kicks off.

The inter-county player who wins a qualifier game on a Saturday evening or Sunday faces a different reality. The joy of playing in a knockout competition. Fair enough and understandable.

What is not understandable? The GAA in its wisdom have decided that delaying any draw until 8.30 on the following Monday morning is the best option for a game that will be played five days later. Consider some practicalities.

The Draw: Home or away. The distance. Will the team manager decide to do an overnight before?

The County Board: Can we find a hotel on a summer weekend night for a 40-strong party with five days’ notice? Do the bus company have a free 52-seater coach waiting around for us or are they fully booked with tours?

The Manager: Overnight stay or travel on the morning of game? Train Tuesday/Thursday or Wednesday/Friday? If Friday, can we get a pitch close to the hotel? When can I confirm all this to the county board, players, S&C coach, the catering company?

The S&C Coach: I am judged on how well I have the lads physically primed. I need to know what nights we train to plan recovery sessions, a gym session, a fitness top-up for the lads who lack game time but could be match-winners this weekend.

The Partner: It may well be a best friend’s wedding and yes, it would be nice to go as a couple. And the bride would like to confirm final numbers to the hotel. But . . . all in good time.

The Childminder: May be needed, may not be needed. May be Friday night. May be Saturday. Maybe it’s best you keep all weekend free . . .

The Player: Lucky enough to work in a nine-to-five job: not ideal, but the boss understands that you will know Tuesday morning if you need a half day, with three days notice, to jump on a bus across the country. Not the first ridiculous request recently.

The Player: A nurse, garda, shop assistant or doctor rostered to work in five days: plenty of helpful colleagues willing to swap a shift, but four/five days’ notice, before a bank holiday weekend?

Ask not what your county can do for your colleague but what your colleague can do for your county. Would knowing where they are heading in five days’ time help the players plan to perform to their max in the next game? Yes. Would knowing this make for easier, earlier, conversations with the important people outside the GAA? Yes.

Winning in a jersey we love is a truly special thing. Making our neighbours and families proud, seeing them smile at our success is enduringly special. Just remove some of the unnecessary tentacles of stress from the previous win, please.

The most infuriating line in the GAA? ‘The matches will be played this weekend, with the dates, times, and venues to be announced later today by the CCCC.’

Not at 10am, not at 12pm, but at some unspecified time later today the details will be announced. As of 8.40am on Monday, eight counties knew who and where they would be playing this weekend.  As of 3.30pm the players, county boards, partners, wedding planners, partners, childminders and bosses did not have the above questions answered.

Player welfare surely encompasses a better alternative to hitting refresh on a fixtures site hoping for confirmation of time and venue.

A minor gripe? For sure. Easily improved upon? Most definitely.

Neil Ewing played inter-county football with Sligo for 13 years before retiring in 2021

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