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'The GAA are acting like the Tory party' | Club v county debate rolls on

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

15:23 28 Jun 2020

Brendan O'Brien believes that the GAA's approach to the club v county debate is akin to the Conservative government in Britain.

O'Brien and Maire Treasa ni Cheallaigh joined the Sunday Paper Review on Off The Ball, as we looked at criticism of the GAA for how to balance the county and club games.

"This is not an analogy I ever thought I would use, but the GAA's approach is kind of like the Tory party in England," said O'Brien.

"I never thought I would say this - what are the Tories doing in the UK? 'Please stay indoors, but if you go out then I'm not going to sanction you.'

"You are appealing to people using their common sense. But we have seen with the beaches in Bournemouth and Brighton over the last few weeks: people don't have common sense when it comes to this."

O'Brien cited what he called 'anecdotal evidence' of counties training after lockdown restrictions were brought in.

"We all know that when lockdown hit, there were counties that were training through it. Those stories are out there, so the GAA knows this is happening and, by basically saying that there won't be sanctions imposed, that is like the Tory part saying 'the cops aren't going to stop you' if you drive from London to Newcastle, or wherever Dominic Cummings went.

"When you look at it, if you're looking at it from a playing point of view, it made so much sense to have the county game first and then the club."

O'Brien believes that the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 would likely coincide with the county calendar.

"You would have got rid of all of this club v county stuff [if county came first], run off the inter-county football and hurling championships and then the rest of the year [would be] all club."

GAA criticism

ni Cheallaigh gave her side, agreeing with Colm O'Rourke's belief that county should have come before club, in calendar terms.

"I don't have the privilege of being at county board meetings, but I cannot understand why when both club and some county players are saying 'please give us a break here' [...] I don't understand why chairpeople do not say 'I hear you.'

"I don't understand why county managers are given a carte blanche to say 'this is how i is - this player cannot play for his club'."

ni Chellaigh believes that the players will, ultimately, be the ones who suffer.

"Of course county managers are going to take the proverbial and do what they can get away with. Why wouldn't they?

"It makes me angry, because my other line of work is sports psychology and the players are tormented by this. It is not fair.

"The poor county player is being ripped apart. He is getting abuse from home for not showing up to his club game. He is getting abuse from his manager for turning up to the county game.

"They end up with broken ligaments, tendons damaged and hips being replaced by the age of 30. It's not on."

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