When The Club Players' Association was formed in 2016, the feeling was "enough is enough". The grassroots GAA players who make up the vast majority of the organisation's membership were fed up playing second fiddle to the inter-county game, waiting for scraps from the top table.
Club players were no longer willing to accept that their summer plans could be changed at the drop of a hat, or that they would train all summer, only to finally play four games in three weeks in late autumn. The CPA was formed and were going to do something about this.
The GAA, in response, decided there was no need for the CPA, and their request for official recognition didn't even come to a vote at Congress. Instead, we were told, the GAA was well aware of the problems facing their members and would act accordingly.
The inter-county season would be shortened, meaning All-Ireland finals would take place in August, give or take a papal visit. April would be deemed "club month". A master fixture's calendar would be released and adhered to. Thrown in for good measure would be an extra 16 games across the hurling and football championships.
It's unfair at this early stage to suggest the GAA were merely paying lip service to the club player with the shortened season. The fixture list and the club month are certainly good ideas that shouldn't be judged on its first year.
However, the decision to leave the implementation of these decisions to the respective county boards appears to have been a mistake, and anecdotally, it seems things are no better off for the average club player in 2018. In fact, in many of the counties in which the hurling teams have suddenly been forced to play almost every week, the club game has been left at a virtual standstill, and the status quo has actually worsened.
Evidence of just how bad things are, and how frustrated people feel is evidenced by an email received by Balls.ie today. This Westmeath junior footballer appears to be at his wit's end.
This morning, Monday 16/07/18, at about 10am, I received a text message from our club secretary stating that our next Championship match had been brought forward by 30 minutes. Now, that wouldn't be too big of a deal, except for the fact that the match in question was due to take place tomorrow at 7pm.
The county board thought that it would be fitting to have a Championship match at 7pm on a Tuesday evening, and then bring it forward by 30 minutes to a 6.30 throw in. Any player knows that you would have to be at a field 45 minutes before throw in, at the very least. Does the GAA not realise that players need to work for a living and that not everyone has a cushy job, driving around in their sponsored cars?!
I myself work in Dublin and am on the starting team. I'm one of the older guys on the team so I need some extra stretching and physio before the warm up. This means that for tomorrow's game with a throw in at 6.30, I will have to be at the pitch for 5:15pm. Because I am coming from Dublin, I will need to leave work at 3.30!
Luckily for me, my job permits that I will be able to leave. My manager is a big GAA supporter and has no problem with me going, but this is not the case for others guys on the team.
Another grievance I have with the GAA is that we played our last championship a month ago, and after tomorrow night, our next championship game is on Sunday at 7pm. We wait for a month, and then two games come along in five days. Why?
This weekend is the first week of the CIF holidays, when a lot of people have to take their holidays. Its their only time to get away all summer. Now they cant leave till after the game. Why have a game at 7pm on a Sunday? Why not earlier in the day, or on Saturday evening, so people can enjoy their Sundays with their families?
On two occasions this year, players rushed home on a midweek night to play a league game, and with both teams on the pitch, no referee showed up.
There have been occasions that Championship fixtures are only given to the club from two to seven days before a game. I work two jobs and more often that not, each week I have to reorganise what times and days I work because games are given on such short notice, and training needs to moved around because of them.
Why can these fixtures not be dictated at the start of the year, with some floating weeks for games that need to be postponed? I also play a bit of rugby for a small club. At the start of the year we get a list of dates we have matches and a list of dates we have off. We can actually plan our lives around it.
I'm pretty sure every other club and county has the same issues.
Disgruntled and tired GAA player
While it should be pointed out that the county board here, and not "the GAA" who are responsible for this, and there is no suggestion that the decisions are made with anything but the players' best interests at heart, it does make for some seriously grim reading.
Playing Gaelic games is supposed to be something we enjoy doing. You represent your community and you do your utmost to win, but ultimately you play because of your love for the game. It sounds here as though the love has been stripped away, and that is a shame.
The sense is the are many more out there like our "disgruntled and tired" friend. How long before they all just give it up? And what kind of an organisation do we have then?