Favourites Dr Crokes could be facing into three big championship games in just eight days as the East Kerry fixtures crisis took another unfortunate turn this week.
With players already angry about having to play up until Christmas, the last thing the East Kerry Board needed was another delay but unfortunately a bereavement in the Gneeveguilla club meant that last Sunday’s quarter-final against Dr Crokes was postponed. The semi-final had already been fixed for this weekend and the final for next weekend so the Board had no choice but to fix the game for last Friday, December 14.
If Crokes manage to beat holders Rathmore today (Sunday), they will face Kilcummin in the decider next Saturday. That’s three knockout championship games in eight days in December. As bad as things have been with the East Kerry Championship in recent years, this will surely constitute one of the most dysfunctional stagings of the competition in its 64-year history.
To be fair to the tournament organisers, they can’t do anything about a bereavement (I will stop short of blaming them for that) but anything can happen when you try to wedge one side of the draw, from Round 1 to final, into a 16-day period in December.
The irony is that neither Gneeveguilla nor Dr Crokes wanted to play their quarter-final game last Sunday anyway. My understanding is that Gneeveguilla were missing a number of senior players and had resigned themselves to fielding a team made up of juniors and under 21s so as to avoid pulling out and incurring a hefty fine.
Dr Crokes defender Fionn Fitzgerald got married up the country last Friday so the proposed fixture was far from ideal for the Lewis Road club either.
It’s a sorry state of affairs when you’re looking ahead to an O’Donoghue Cup quarter-final and the word around town is that neither team wants to play. Sadly, it’s a sure sign of where the competition is in 2018. The tournament is being devalued at the moment, and that’s a description I’ve heard time and time again since I started writing about the issue a month ago.
Last week’s article
Last week I put forward an alternative football calendar that would see the group phase of a new-look O’Donoghue Cup taking place in January with the semi-finals and final being played after Kerry win/get knocked out of the championship.
The response to the article has been overwhelming. I knew people were unhappy with the current situation but I couldn’t have predicted how universal the feeling of disillusionment actually is. Players, officials and supporters have all reached out to me to over the past few days to voice their support. If I’m being honest, I don’t know if the schedule I shared is definitely the answer but one thing is clear: people are desperate for things to change.
It’s funny, a lot of readers have said that the piece was controversial and joked that I’d have to watch my back, but how is it controversial if the vast majority of us are on the same page?
The next step
I’ve spoken to a number of club captains this week to see what the feeling is amongst the senior teams in East Kerry and the feedback so far has been very encouraging. Some clubs are still in action so they will naturally want to focus on football, but captains of other teams have confirmed that they’ll be speaking to their teammates about putting their concerns in writing and submitting them to their clubs.
I hope to talk to the remaining captains this coming week but my advice to them will be the same. Speak to your teammates, even if it’s just in the WhatsApp group, and see how they feel.
If the majority are unhappy with the current schedule and feel as though changes need to me made, put your thoughts in writing and share them with your chairman.
As players we tend to have a defeatist attitude when it comes to things like this because the GAA and the boards never seem to listen, but have some faith in your club. They will back their players if their players let them know how they feel.
We can point the finger all day long but if we don’t act now to address this important player welfare issue, we’ll have no one to blame but ourselves.