independent

Monday 23 April 2018

Scant regard for football clubs with late-night fixtures

Brendan Furlong's Hop Ball

Brendan Furlong
Brendan Furlong

The events of last weekend said a lot about the respect that Wexford G.A.A. officials have for the players, clubs and supporters of the big ball code in the county.

When the powers that be that govern fixtures sat down to schedule last weekend's football games, I have no doubt little thought was given to the players when it came to making arrangements.

For players and clubs these were the most important games of the year so far, so it was alarming when it came to light that a county semi-final was scheduled to start at 8.30 p.m., while an important Senior football relegation play-off had an earlier start by just half an hour.

No doubt the players and clubs of Kilmore and Naomh Eanna must have been frustrated when they learned of the Intermediate 'A' football championship county semi-final having an 8.30 p.m. start under lights in Bree, following on from the opening semi-final in this grade involving Crossabeg-Ballymurn and Volunteers.

For many players travel is at least an hour from their club base, while for others they had to make the commute from college through rush hour traffic. This made the scheduling of 8.30 p.m. all the more comical given the fact that it was a county semi-final, reached by both clubs following a bizarre scheduling of a championship now run off on a blitz basis.

And that's not to mention football and hurling following on successive weekends, with many clubs and players requested to play championship games with just a six-day break in between each encounter.

One is continually reading reports about the difficulties facing clubs, particularly rural clubs, in holding players and being able to field teams as a single parish. But it doesn't surprise me that players are becoming increasingly frustrated with a schedule that is, now in Wexford, of hurling and football on successive weekends, with players given no opportunity to overcome knocks and fatigue.

It seems in Wexford that hard work is rewarded with disrespect and contempt. No wonder Wexford football is in the state it's in.

The lack of respect did not start there and will not end there. Some weeks back clubs in the Intermediate 'A' semi-finals were instructed that extra-time would be played in the event of a draw to enable the county have a representative in the Leinster Club championship.

Well, for what it's worth Wexford, with the exception of Senior hurling, should not base their completion date on the Leinster Club competitions, as this has been a source of embarrassment to the county.

Teams in all provincial competitions, with the exception of Senior hurling, show little interest and total disregard for advancing in the province.

One has only to look at the string of poor results over recent years. Take the Leinster Club Senior football last year, a huge embarrassment to the county, which must have shocked then new football manager Seamus McEnaney when witnessing his first competitive game in the county.

In the interests of respect to the players and clubs, surely the Intermediate 'A' county semi-finals along with the Senior football relegation play-off should have been given a Saturday afternoon setting or even Sunday forenoon.

The All-Ireland football final will be offered as an excuse, but then again some games were played on Sunday forenoon, and few if any players intended travelling to Croke Park.

Worryingly though, many will be unaware of the preferential treatment being offered to club hurlers in the county.

For next weekend they have been handed prime time fixtures and venues, unlike their footballing counterparts who were asked to travel the rural roads of Wexford, having completed a day's work from 8 a.m., then arrived home to grab a snack (no dinner), and for the majority face an hour's drive to play their most important game of the year.

But then this year from high office it has all been about the Davy Fitzgerald show. So it's little wonder that all Wexford football teams are manager-less at the moment.

These are players who have committed to their clubs but in essence they are signing away their ability to plan anything outside of that team. The demands on them in these situations are simply unrealistic and unsustainable.

Wexford People

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