Colm O’Rourke

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - COLM O’ROURKE

Many now take to the gym and try to build a body like Charles At­las. They would be much bet­ter off out­side than look­ing in gym mir­rors and be­ing tempted to take sup­ple­ments.

AMAN can’t take a week off with­out a bit of con­tro­versy . . . and I thought no­body cared too much about the All Stars any more. Maybe we all just need some­thing to dis­cuss at this time of year be­cause for most clubs, the year is long over. The com­press­ing of cham­pi­onships into a shorter time-frame means most club cham­pi­onships are fin­ished ear­lier. The nat­u­ral re­sult of this is that only a few clubs in each county have any games af­ter Septem­ber.

So the clubs sit and wait un­til Fe­bru­ary. In the mean­time, play­ers be­come more un­fit and it will be sev­eral months into the new year be­fore fit­ness and skill lev­els im­prove again. It is hard to build mo­men­tum, loy­alty and am­bi­tion when you go al­most six months with­out a com­pet­i­tive match. As a re­sult, the quality of matches will suf­fer badly.

The an­swer is to pro­vide some type of com­pe­ti­tion for clubs that are knocked out of their cham­pi­onship early. Most county boards will frown on this as they strive to tidy up their fix­tures at this time of year. Yet there has to be a way of hav­ing cross-county leagues to be played in Septem­ber, Oc­to­ber and early November for clubs not other­wise en­gaged.

There would also be a nov­elty fac­tor in play­ing teams from other coun­ties. Even some­thing as sim­ple as four-team groups, where every team gets three matches and then have some type of knock-out games at the end.

There are many who do not think this is work­able on the ba­sis that clubs shut up shop af­ter they are beaten in the cham­pi­onship and are not in­ter­ested in play­ing again un­til spring. This is non­sense. Young men are keen on play­ing games at all times of the year, they might not be too keen on train­ing, but some­thing is needed to keep clubs in­volved in what they are sup­posed to be at — play­ing foot­ball.

Teams in­volved in sub­sidiary com­pe­ti­tions within their coun­ties can be left out of th­ese end-of-sea­son matches and it could be on a vol­un­tary ba­sis. A club does not have to par­tic­i­pate, but there was great weather this year in Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber while most play­ers were sit­ting on their hands or play­ing soc­cer or rugby.

Many oth­ers now take to the gym and try to build a body like Charles At­las. They would be much bet­ter off out­side than look­ing in gym mir­rors and be­ing tempted to take sup­ple­ments which might not be healthy and may even be down­right un­safe.

The pro­vin­cial coun­cils could have a role in or­gan­is­ing such com­pe­ti­tions. Any club that is out of their cham­pi­onship by early Septem­ber, which is the vast ma­jor­ity, should be en­cour­aged to en­ter. There may be a bit of travel as some games will be out­side the county and matches could be played un­der lights or on Sun­day morn­ings. Yet no mat­ter what the ob­sta­cles there should be some pi­lot pro­jects run so as to give adult play­ers more games.

Some county board of­fi­cials tell me that play­ers are not in­ter­ested in matches at this time of year. I do not be­lieve that and hope to soon see an end-of-sea­son com­pe­ti­tion in this part of the coun­try which could in­volve se­nior teams from Meath, Louth, Cavan and Mon­aghan in a group. The in­ter­me­di­ate and ju­nior ranks could have sim­i­lar com­pe­ti­tions.

As al­ways in life, there are a thou­sand good rea­sons for not do­ing any­thing. It has been tried suc­cess­fully at un­der­age so it is not a case of a new in­ven­tion.

Any­way, back to the All Stars. My own lack of con­cern is based on a few things. I didn’t get one be­cause there was a time when if you were sent off you were not con­sid­ered. So on the whim of a ref­eree I was dis­qual­i­fied. Since then I have seen quite a few daft se­lec­tions which have dam­aged the cred­i­bil­ity of the scheme and, for a fin­ish, I have heard so many play­ers over the last 40 years who have put the value of an All Star as be­ing just short of an All-Ire­land medal.

If you ever hear a player say­ing some­thing like this then you re­alise he has a se­ri­ous prob­lem with per­spec­tive. In­di­vid­ual awards are no more than a nice bonus. If you are a player on a ju­nior club team and your side win the cham­pi­onship, then that is a mil­lion times more im­por­tant than an All Star.

If one of your star play­ers gets an All Star and pro­claims it more pres­ti­gious than a cham­pi­onship medal, of any sort, then you need to take him aside and have a friendly con­ver­sa­tion about the facts of life. There are not too many of that type around, thank­fully, but ego is a dan­ger­ous thing.

The big de­bate around this time seems to fo­cus on Stephen Clux­ton not get­ting one. I did not lose any sleep over it or get ex­er­cised in any way. Since I started play­ing and watch­ing foot­ball, the man who has brought the big­gest trans­for­ma­tion to any one po­si­tion has been Clux­ton. He spawned a gen­er­a­tion of looka­likes. Yet there is still no con­tra­dic­tion in say­ing that, while agree­ing with Rory Beg­gan as the best goal­keeper this year.

Beg­gan has copied Clux­ton and his per­for­mance in Clones against Kerry was one of the best of the year by any player. There are plenty of ex­am­ples in his­tory and in fa­bles of the stu­dent learn­ing from the master and even­tu­ally get­ting even bet­ter. That might be push­ing it a bit far in this case, but Beg­gan’s se­lec­tion was not the worst de­ci­sion ever and of course it is the only po­si­tion where only one choice could be made.

It would be just as cred­i­ble putting Clux­ton cor­ner-back as plac­ing Colm Ca­vanagh at full-back. That makes the se­lec­tion a laugh. Why not pick ei­ther of the Wylie broth­ers — who had to re­ally mark their men and did it su­perbly — rather than some­one who did not have to mark any­one. If Ca­vanagh was not se­lected at mid­field then he should not have been se­lected at all.

And who was the bet­ter player for Gal­way this year, Shane Walsh or Ian Burke? Burke was a star for Co­rofin but Gal­way would not have been in the Su­per 8 with­out Walsh.

Fi­nally, I also thought that Brian Howard should have been Young Foot­baller of the Year. He was out­stand­ing when it re­ally mat­tered for Dublin. That is how you must judge all play­ers. David Clif­ford made cru­cial in­ter­ven­tions in big games, yet Howard was con­sis­tently out­stand­ing.

Both will find things much more dif­fi­cult next year and Clif­ford, for all his talent, does not have the same back-up as Howard. Dublin, while they have the best in­di­vid­u­als, play more as team than any­one else. So it is eas­ier for a young player to come into their side.

Then there was Foot­baller of the Year. Brian Fen­ton or Ciaran Kilkenny? Opin­ions, opin­ions and more di­vided opin­ions.

Away from all this glitz and glam­our, I am far more in­ter­ested in clubs hav­ing games on Sun­day morn­ings in the au­tumn. A cou­ple of months off is enough for any young man, or else their thoughts might turn to wine, women and song. Per­ish the thought.

Young men are keen on play­ing games at all times of the year

Photo: Ram­sey Cardy

There is no con­tra­dic­tion in say­ing Stephen Clux­ton has been one of the most in­flu­en­tial play­ers ever in Gaelic foot­ball but agree­ing that Rory Beg­gan was the best goal­keeper this year.

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