In our latest blog post, one of our correspondents, frustrated with fixture congestion, suggests a possible solution that Wexford GAA might adopt for a trial period.
The facts as we know them. Most clubs in Wexford are dual, most clubs play u16s with minors, minors with adult teams, u14s with u16s and so on. Some clubs are football first and hurling second while the vast majority are hurling first and football second while in some clubs it seesaws from one to the other depending on managers, players preference in a given year.
The current set up. Normally, we start, at underage, the football league/championship in late February/ early March and then normally go two weekends of football and two weekends of hurling. The month of March, often marred by wet and cold weather, is also the key month for the preparation of our county minor football team while the county minor hurlers are in training and colleges are also motoring if making progress. This more or less continues up to the exams. And it’s a fair bit of activity especially for minor panel players and dual players and colleges players, in the main all coming from a core of underage players across the county. Throw Development Squads into the mix as well.
Possible change? How might we improve the management of our season for the benefit of players, clubs and the county? Maybe clubs will self select into one code over the other? Maybe but unlikely in the short term. Or maybe we could consider splitting the season? How about splitting it along the following lines but underage only.
The advantages? Allows clubs to focus on football for a sustained period thereby improving skill levels and competitiveness, football less dependent on good hard ground and floodlights are more effective for football than they are for hurling. This would allow the county minor panels, both codes, to work away by agreeing to release players for club football games.
The disadvantages? Delays hurling only clubs entry into the season, requires all dual clubs to organise training which allows for say one hurling session over every two or three football sessions and requires strict fixture management between club and county requirements which actually is not a disadvantage but a learning opportunity.
Begin hurling two weeks after exams finish but begin u14 once football finishes at semi final stage. Allowing for both county minor panels being involved in Leinster championship, run u16/ minor hurling on the a week on week basis which creates a bit more space for training and injury recovery. Dual clubs will now know where they stand and if their football teams are at semi final stage, clubs will have to, as they already do, manage training schedules. Advantages? Hurling is played on better surfaces, longer evenings, improved skill and competitiveness levels. Disadvantages? Hurling only clubs delayed entry but compensation of sorts by continuous hurling from early July to early September. In the football season clubs seeking hurling only will find plenty of challenge games opportunities outside the county while football clubs seeking action in the hurling season can do likewise.
This would if adopted be a major change and present significant challenges for all clubs. It would though bring significant benefits, reducing friction between codes and fixture congestion. It would allow both minor panels to operate when players are focussing on one code (depending on progress) and should, over a trial period of 2-3 years increase skill and intensity levels. How about we give it a go?