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Can the GAA benefit from Covid...
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Can the GAA benefit from Covid delay? | Dr Con Murphy and Eoin Liston

Ruairi Carberry
Ruairi Carberry

10:24 6 Nov 2020

Dr Con Murphy, a legendary figure within Cork GAA, believes that the coronavirus pandemic has given the powers that be, in Croke Park, time to reset and plan for the future of the game.

The break in play forced the GAA, it's participating players, and supporters alike to begin to look for solutions to the long-term problems that face hurling and football.

One issue that has received much attention is the increased workload that athletes within the GAA have faced in the last 10 years and the jam-packed calendar that has reduced the amount of time that inter-county players may spend with their club teammates.

The changing landscape of the GAA

Dr Murphy, who has overseen the medical needs of Cork GAA players since the 70s, fears that the game has become too serious in recent times.

The pandemic has provided decision-makers with time to pause and look at the bigger picture, perhaps to slow down and lessen the burden on those who play at inter-county level. This has resulted in talks of a split season being introduced in 2022.

"I think it might show players and all of us, that the game has got too serious, which it has in my opinion," Murphy said while speaking with Kerry greats Eoin "Bomber" Liston, Kieran Donaghy and Off The Ball's Joe Molloy for the latest Supervalu Roadshow.

"It was way more fun at that time. We trained hard but not as hard [as now] and I think things might steady up a bit after this."

Has hurling and football become too focused on increasing the professionalism of the game while not fully committing to move from amateur sport?

Certainly, the training methods and intensity, sparked in part by the outstanding Dublin teams of the last decade, have all increased.

Jim Gavin and Jack McCaffrey embrace after the GAA's All-Ireland football final 14 September 2019; Dublin manager Jim Gavin and Jack McCaffrey celebrate after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final Replay match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Murphy feels that this places an unnecessary burden on players with smaller counties who are forced to train resolutely throughout the winter only to be sent packing by one of the big hitters early on in the championship.

"I mean you only need to look at the vote on whether we should play or not to see what senior players thought. 52% of fellas did not want to play. They are obviously from the counties that see themselves having no chance.

"We are in danger of becoming elitist if we are not careful."

"You have to take your hat off to the Dubs now they are fantastic. I am not pointing the finger at Dublin but it is not encouraging  for the weaker counties to kill themselves for the winter, to be hammered in the summer."

Club vs County schedule

In the past number of decades, the attention has skewed heavily toward the inter-county championship.

While there is no denying that representing your county at Croke Park on All-Ireland final day is of immense pride to those who have the opportunity, the club game has suffered as a result, according to Liston.

"The Kerry lads would sacrifice anything to play [this year] and there are loads of counties where you have a reasonable chance of winning," he said.

Donegal, Tyrone, Dublin, Mayo and Galway, they are putting in a huge effort and they love it and that but what I would agree with Con that this year they got a chance to play with their club more and they really, really enjoyed that. They became part of the club."

Blackrock players celebrbate with the Sean Óg Murphy Cup following the Cork County Premier Senior Club Hurling Championship Final match between Glen Rovers and Blackrock at Páirc Ui Chaoimh in Cork. Blackrock players celebrbate with the Sean Óg Murphy Cup following the Cork County Premier Senior Club Hurling Championship Final match between Glen Rovers and Blackrock at Páirc Ui Chaoimh in Cork. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The surging importance of inter-county competition at the expense of the club game can, at times, create a "them and us" mentality, says Liston.

"In our time you were allowed play loads of matches with your club. I played a match the night before I played my first championship match in 1978.

"We got loads of chances to play with our club but in the last 20 years, you had county players who were just strictly nearly playing with the county 90% of the time or 93% of the time.

"They miss out on an awful lot there because the fellas they grew up with they didn't really know them and I think that was the beauty of this, where you had a half-season, you play with your club and you die with your club and then you are in good enough shape you play with your county and die with your county."

One way to ensure that smaller counties go into the championship with excitement and drive is to place more of the spotlight on the Tailteann Cup.

Tailteann Cup must be backed

Donaghy argued that if the GAA themselves, the media and supporters follow the second-tier championship as much the Sam Maguire, then lesser teams will take on that challenge with renewed appetite and vigour.

It could be used as a way to build a championship mentality in counties with young up and coming squads, according to Donaghy.

"It's a crucial juncture for the GAA that we get this Tailteann Cup right," he said.

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All-ireland Cork Dr Con Murphy Eoin Liston GAA Kerry Munster Football

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