Radically shortened intercounty season to be discussed

It’s expected to be considered at meeting of Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force

The current situation where the inter-county season is almost year-round is not deemed sustainable by many. File photograph: Inpho

The current situation where the inter-county season is almost year-round is not deemed sustainable by many. File photograph: Inpho

 

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on Gaelic games could be lasting. Friday’s mailshot from the Gaelic Players Association to its membership, canvasses views on a radically shortened intercounty season.

Given new force by player experiences during the current truncated, 26-week season, it is expected to be considered at the next meeting of Croke Park’s Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force (FCRTF), scheduled for August 19th.

A draft proposal that has been discussed with the GAA envisages a season running from February to the end of July. GPA CEO Paul Flynn points out in his communiqué that, “2020 has taught everybody a lot about how it is possible to condense the fixture schedule. We now have an opportunity to shorten the season which is something you have told us you want.”

The FCRTF, on which the GPA is represented, brought forward three intercounty football season options for consideration in its 2019 report: a ‘four eights’ structure to replace the current provincial championships; moving the football league into the summer in a switch with the provincial championships; or the status quo - which is also proposed for hurling.

The GPA is suggesting a reduced window for intercounty activity - from about 40 weeks to 23 - but leaving the structures of the competitions to the task force.

There is a widespread sentiment and not just among players that the current season, forced on the GAA by circumstances, has worked out well by providing clearly separate seasons for club and county and providing certainty in terms of fixtures for all players.

Whereas there is no guarantee that this season will play out as planned given the resurgence of Covid-19, the GPA sees the idea as a longer play, which would be applicable after the coronavirus crisis and it hasn’t been ruled out on principle by senior administrators.

At the heart of the concept is what is described as “a new strategic plan for our association which has as its core principle, “Sustainable Amateurism . . . designed to allow you achieve better balance in your life on and off the pitch”.

The proposal, which was drawn up last year before the pandemic, is based on player surveys in the two ESRI Reports published in 2018 and 2019 and the GPA’s annual grant survey data conducted early this year.

“One of the major pieces of feedback you have given us,” runs the report, “is that the current situation where the intercounty season is almost year-round is not sustainable. It is seen as the ‘root cause’ of many of the issues that impact you.

“It aims to remove excessive demands and give you a more enjoyable playing experience that doesn’t impact negatively on your professional and personal life.”

It would involve the discontinuation of the club-only month of April, which was introduced two years ago.

During the next week or so, feedback will be gathered with a view to finalising the blueprint for submission to the FCRTF. The circular details the benefits of a shorter season:

1) Supports a sustainable amateur model allowing you to have a balance between your physical, personal, and professional commitments.

2) Provided defined periods for other competitions including club and third level.

3) Facilitates definitive periods for a closed season of activity for intercounty players.

4) Provides the opportunity to launch a new championship/league structure

5) Opportunity to embed optimal sports science and competitive balance principles.

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