Lots of learnings for the GAA from a year like no other
By Shane Brophy
“A year like no other” will be one of the phrases associated with 2020 and it was how Tipperary CCC (Competitions Controls Committee) Secretary Tom Maher reflected on the year in his annual report to county convention last month.
Always one of the most thought-provoking reports annually, the Moyne-Templetuohy clubman highlighted that because of the Covid-19 pandemic, just 206 games were played under the county board remit in the past year, with no games played between Tuesday 10th March and Friday 17th July, which then followed a twelve-week blitz of club championship action before second lockdown came on October 5th. However, that twelve-week period provided one of the best club championships in recent memory.
“Players got games every second week, if a single code club, and every week if a dual club,” Maher said.
“The time for training after the initial month of stamina work was reduced considerably and players got what they always want, continuous games.”
The county fixtures secretary is welcoming the advent of a new split season which comes into place this year; however, he would have preferred if the club campaign had begun first.
“My thinking would be that if inter-county championship came first, clubs would have tired players coming back to commence the club scene.
“There would be a greater benefit to county managers having fit players coming off the club season, players that they would have seen and realise the form they are in.”
However, GAA nationally are set to vote at next month’s Congress that the split season will begin with inter-county first with the season to begin in late February and wrap up in mid-July, with club championships to take place thereafter.
In terms of the club championships going forward, Maher said a number of changes brought in for 2020 should be retained, including permanently removing the divisional link in senior and intermediate hurling.
“Strong competition and the fear of being knocked out made this years (2020) terrific championships. It would be a modern decision for modern times,” he said.
He also advocated that only the divisional winners in junior ‘A’ hurling progress to the county semi-finals, while in terms of football, he said the all-county format at junior level has done little for the promotion of the game and should be returned to the divisions.
“Clubs that are lukewarm about football are playing at the same times as when their hurling teams were, which is their first love. This means that clubs are not putting teams into junior football championships, which they would if it were run differently,” he said,
Maher also suggested that the intermediate football championship, which currently has sixteen teams, be reduced to twelve, to make it more competitive, as three clubs (Kiladangan, Borrisokane and Cashel King Cormacs, failed to field at all in the 2020 championship.
With the club season set to become a permanent feature in the second half of the year going forward, Maher pointed to the fact it will require more floodlit and all-weather pitches to be developed by clubs. The development of such facilities is likely to be massively impacted by Covid-19 as GAA grants are unlikely to be there over the next couple of years because of no revenue generated by spectators at inter-county championships.
“Clubs have put in 50 metre all-weather surfaces with lights, but they are shying back from doing full all-weather with lights,” he said.
Tom Maher also paid particular thanks to referees who had a particularly busy year. In 2000, there were exactly 100 referees in the county, with a number of previously retired officials taking up the whistle once more, while four new referees were also trained up.
However, Maher said the abuse of officials remains a problem and is why it is making it unattractive to more and more younger people to take up the role.
“Younger people coming up to refereeing age are different than what went before. They will not entertain abuse and will walk away quickly,” he said, adding that the €200 fine may have to be increased to force clubs to deal with unruly players, mentors or supporters.
Parish Rule being abused
The Tipperary CCC also deals with the transfer of players within the county and Tom Maher feels that parish rule “is slowly coming to an end” such is the increasing number of transfers being deliberated on each year, particularly by juveniles looking to move from so-called smaller clubs to bigger clubs, and that players are bending the rules massively to ensure they get their wish by “moving in” with their grandparents.
“It is amazing how many grandparents that are living in the large club areas,” he said.
“These grandparents also seem to have the players living with them, minding the grandparents. There will probably be a parent living there as well.
“The CCC can only go as per the bye-laws, even though most of the times they believe different than what they are being told.
“Clubs have a choice. Do they want this to go on or to stop?”