In Mayo, the beginning of a standard GAA club football calendar year is marked by the toil of pre-season running sessions in January and early February.
These early training sessions have become such a habitual part of the return to football routine that the question of ‘What are we training for?’ is often overlooked or dismissed. In Mayo, and indeed in all counties, the most common answer will be ‘Championship’. Well for players in Mayo this means a two-month slog from the beginning of February to the first week in April for a single championship game. Following this championship often disappears until the late summer or early Autumn when the inter-county team’s own championship ends.
This has made the improvised 2020 calendar somewhat refreshing. When it seemed unlikely that club players would have any action at all only a couple of months ago, the fact that Mayo’s senior championship will have the quarter final stage this weekend is a revelation of how the season can be played both competitively and concisely. In that same time frame last year there was just two league games for the county’s senior club teams. Granted, there was six games played prior to this but that only adds up to seven games between league and championship in the six months since most teams started training. That leaves almost half of the league games and the majority of the championship to be played in the time between the typical August restart and the middle of October when the senior championship final was played in 2019.
The lack of an inter-county championship in 2020 has proved to be a huge benefit to the already popular club championships across the country. Without inter-county games, all attention is on average club players who put in huge hours just to play football and hurling at the most competitive level they can. This year they have finally been rewarded with just attention. Prior to the decision on August 18th to place all sporting events behind closed doors, people were flocking to local club games. Even after the decision to prevent fans from attending games, RTE and TG4 both provided fans of the GAA with games they can watch.
These complaints are nothing anyone in the GAA has not heard before as it’s long been documented that club players are undermined by the profitable inter-county season. However, if the GAA hierarchy is paying attention this year they will realise that the club championships have the potential to be just as important and profitable to the sport. Not only are there far more games, but when these club championships get the attention they deserve it benefits countless more of the
GAA’s 500,000+ members and recognises the effort both players and volunteers put into the game.
A model of using club leagues as a pre-season that can run parallel to inter-county competitions and then allowing club championships across the country to be played and given deserved prominence would likely yield very few complaints from the average club player. This gives players frequent games and honours their dedication to the game when the championship becomes the centre of attention. It would also allow the GAA club championships to grow to new heights and perhaps even replicate the international popularity that inter-county has gained in recent seasons.
— Mayo GAA (@MayoGAA) August 24, 2020