herald

Sunday 22 April 2018

Let's solve the season

Magee has a rival suggestion to April 'club-only' idea

Frustrating: Johnny Magee has seen both sides of the argument
Frustrating: Johnny Magee has seen both sides of the argument

Johnny Magee believes it's time for the GAA stakeholders to draw up two completely separate seasons for inter-county and club action.

The retired Dublin star would favour ditching the 'club-only' month of April and finishing off the inter-county season earlier as a result, at which point the club could take over fully.

Magee has enjoyed a stellar April so far after masterminding a weekend Dublin SFC round-robin victory for Kilmacud Crokes over the 2016 All-Ireland club champions, Ballyboden St Enda's.

Misnomer

He had access to his county cohort (bar the injured Cian O'Sullivan) for this vital win. However, there are enough stories out there, beyond the Pale, to suggest the notion of April being all about the clubs is something of a misnomer.

There may be no county matches right now but most panels are training. As a former Wicklow boss, Magee knows all about the pressures attached to this time of year.

"In order to prepare for a county championship match, you need to have four to six weeks' preparation - at least," he told The Herald. "In order to get a team all guns blazing for the first round."

But now, in his first year in charge of his native Crokes, he has seen just how difficult it can be from a club perspective ... even though he's probably luckier than others because Jim Gavin releases his players completely during this pre-Leinster SFC 'window'.

"I think there should be two separate seasons. Two defined seasons - you have your inter-county season and your inter-club season," Magee suggested.

"This year was probably the longest winter ever and it really took its toll on the matches being cancelled. But you can't fix the weather ... you have to roll with it.

Back-up

"For me, if you had the right sand-based pitches, identify which are the best pitches that take the extra bit of rain ... have a back-up plan. Then start the league earlier, rather than have the O'Byrne Cup.

"Bring the county season forward, maybe have a two or four-week break after the league is finished, and then straight into championship.

"Then start the club season in August, when the county season is over. But run it off in the calendar year.

"Now, the only problem is with the county players ... will they be burned out? There has to be a 'down time' for those lads as well."

Magee accepted that there is "no easy solution" to this club-county crux - but it still needs to be thrashed out.

"For me, the CPA, the GPA, Croke Park, they need to sit down," he said. "Look, it's going around in circles and it will continue to go around in circles."

The end-game, he concluded, should be a "clearcut" agreement rather than "a token" by making April a club month.

"Dublin have given the county players totally back to their clubs. But that's not the case for other counties."

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