Inter-county managers urged to give college players a break

Inter-county managers urged to give college players a break

The chairman of the Higher Education GAA Council believes inter-county managers should not impose too many demands on college players while the Fitzgibbon and Sigerson Cups are in progress.

Both inter-varsity competitions get under way today, two of 17 championships run by the council in a compacted five-week period. In a bid to aid the fight against burnout, Raymond O’Brien would prefer that senior inter-county players who are in college would be allowed to focus on their college teams during this time.

“I read an article recently in a Sunday paper which was blaming colleges for burnout,” he said, “but I think that that’s a total fallacy. Barring one or two exceptions, colleges generally only get to train once a week. That’s about all they can manage as players are being dragged left, right and centre because of their other commitments.

“This is magnified when they’re attending college a good distance away from where they live. I think that it would make things a lot easier if county managers didn’t place demands on them in the early part of the year.

“I’m not even saying this from the point of view of colleges GAA but players’ college commitments in general, they go there to get an education and that can suffer if they’re having to spend so much time training with their counties.

“A commonsense approach is needed. It’s not as if they will suffer fitness-wise from being away from the counties as the training they get with college teams is just as good. County teams are looking ahead to championships in the summer so missing a few sessions in February shouldn’t affect negatively affect a player.”

O’Brien is not against college sides entering the four provincial pre-season competitions, though he would like to see Ulster counties do the same as those in the other provinces and allow colleges to have first call on players.

“The entry of colleges into the pre-season competitions wasn’t due to the third-level committee,” he said, “it was due to decisions taken by provincial councils, maybe at a time when they weren’t taken as seriously as they are now.

“We have no problem with them doing that, because if they weren’t in them, then they’d probably be playing county teams in challenges anyway. What we would like to see is colleges given first refusal.

“This is what happens in Connacht, Leinster and Munster, the colleges name the players they wish to use. If colleges are to enter then they should have a full complement available.”

The structures of both the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon are likely to remain the same for the foreseeable future. The Sigerson, with 18 teams, is run on a straight knockout basis, beginning with two preliminary round games. With 13 teams, the Fitzgibbon operates a four-group round-robin stage, with two teams advancing from eight to the quarter-finals. While it means that 15 games are needed to eliminate five teams, O’Brien points to the scheduling of the U21 grade as a factor in the discord between the systems.

“We’re squeezed time-wise by the U21 football,” he said.

“Having any more games would be unfair on teams and with the greater number involved it wouldn’t be feasible to have a round-robin. With fewer teams in the Fitzgibbon, there isn’t as much pressure from other factors and the colleges are in favour. I think the system has led to some very competitive championships.”

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved


Speak Your Mind