Saturday, 28 March 2015

Club fixtures: County board responds

Dear Seamus,

I am a regular reader of your column but I feel that the comments in recent weeks regarding the gap between rounds one and two of the senior and intermediate football championships, as well as the alleged lack of games in the interim, were very unbalanced. 

  I was also surprised to read a letter from an unnamed club official regarding the situation. While it is policy not to reply to correspondence that does not come through the proper channels (as the writer may not always be who they claim to be), I decided to write this letter to give your readers a better understanding of our club competitions and the fixtures making process.

  Although the senior and intermediate football championships are two of the most high profile competitions in the county some equally important competitions are being overlooked. What about the seven clubs, who are keeping the proud tradition of hurling alive at adult level? What about the six clubs whose first team (and in a few cases, their only team) competes in the junior A football championship? Should their competition be cast aside to make dates available for the “big boys”? Indeed the same can be said for the many players who cannot make their club senior or intermediate team, they too deserve an opportunity to participate in a championship. 

 As you know from your time as county PRO, and a member of the competitions control committee (CCC) fixtures is a very intricate area and all stakeholders (players, managers, administrators etc.) have to make compromises in order to give everyone a fair chance, as dates for games are limited. 

  A motion put forward by a club at the annual Roscommon GAA special fixtures meeting many months ago proposed that all club league competitions be completed before the end of August. The merits of this motion were discussed and subsequently approved by the clubs (including the club of the officer whose letter appeared in last week’s edition of your paper). This proposal, along with all the inter-county fixtures was used to produce the Master Fixtures Plan, which was approved by clubs and published in early February. 

 In your column on June 8th you suggested that there should have been a round of club championship games on that weekend. That proposal would not work for a number of reasons with the main one being that the dates were in the middle of the Leaving Cert exams and in the interests of player welfare the CCC does not, where possible, schedule any club championship games during Leaving Cert exams. Due to immigration many clubs, particularly those in rural areas, now rely on a number of players of Leaving Cert age to field a team and will not play without them. 

  Also in the June 8th edition Tony McManus mentioned the break between round one and two of the Championships. He said “I know that it is not easy to organise fixtures, but surely June, July and August are the months during which club football be played.” I am delighted to inform Tony and all your readers, including the club official who wrote in last week, that there is lots of football (and hurling) scheduled to be played during these three months. Rounds of all the football leagues are currently on going and are scheduled to be concluded before the end of July. Dates for the finals are yet to be confirmed however the leagues have given, and will continue to give county and club players the competitive action that you felt was missing, based on your comments in your June 1st column.

  The senior hurling championship gets under-way this weekend and runs until mid July when it will have a break for a number of weeks. Some of the many dual players (another group of people who seem to have been ignored in the senior and intermediate debate) will then switch to football action as the junior A championship is scheduled to commence on the weekend of July 20th. 

  Two rounds of this competition will be played before the return of the senior and intermediate championships on the weekend commencing August 10th. There will be action in all championships throughout August and September with the finals of the senior hurling, senior and minor football followed by the intermediate and junior A football championships scheduled for the first three weekends of October.

  Finally, I’d like to refer to the letter from the unnamed club player, which appeared in last week’s edition. Although I was very disappointed to read the very misleading headline   “No club football in county for 11 Weeks,” I thought it was a very well written piece and highlights some of the issues that club players in every county go through due to the disjointed and unbalanced nature of the timing of inter-county competitions. In recent years Roscommon clubs and the county executive have put forward motions to congress in order to try and improve the situation with regard to inter-county scheduling, which in turn would allow players more time to play with their clubs. 

  Although the motions have not been successful the good news is that plans are developing at National level which would see the dates of provincial championship matches being better aligned / co-ordinated between the provinces which in turn would “tighten up” the qualifier system and allow more time for club activity.

  Although some of the proposals suggested by the player had merit (in fact they were quite similar to proposals discussed by the CCC) others may not be practical, particularly in the short term.

As the GAA is a democratic organisation, discussion on fixtures, or any area is welcomed, and should be encouraged within clubs, however it should be done while considering all the facts. This winter the CCC will review the events of 2012 and begin planning for 2013. On behalf of the CCC I am asking the player that wrote letter, and others who have similar thoughts, to work with their club executive to produce a motion for submission to the next Roscommon GAA Special Fixtures Meeting.

Is mise, le meas,

Colm Beirne

PRO Roscommon County Board GAA

Note: I can assure Mr Beirne that those people who wrote to me are genuine. They wished to keep their names private as is their right, but as someone who has been involved with GAA in county Roscommon all my life at club and county level I know all of the people who wrote to me on a personal basis and I can vouch for their integrity. 

  They are people who care. I accept some of the points made above but there are many people, myself included who feel very strongly on the matter of fixtures. I have received support from many others who feel that the only way we will progress at senior inter-county football is to have players playing at club level, league and championship. 

  Former county senior team manager Sean Young and many others contact me on a private basis regularly to make this point several times a year. With regard to the senior and intermediate championships, I can only speak for my own club, but I know that we were short several players for the first round of the championship because they were doing the Leaving Cert, so what is the difference playing another round two weeks later? 

 It is the job of this newspaper and other local media interest to reflect on the views of the people and that’s what I am doing in my column and that’s what Tony Mc Manus is doing too, although he is well able to speak for himself. I was of the opinion that constructive criticism was always welcome and that’s what happened in this paper over the past few weeks…Seamus Duke

Issue dated: 22 June 2012
© Roscommon People