A weird, unscheduled summer has brought forward a row that's been brewing a long time in the GAA world. For years now, if not decades, GAA clubs and club players have been getting more and more disillusioned with an uncertain calendar and the unavailability of teammates who have been selected for county panels.
There is no doubt that a solution to the current situation is one of the biggest tasks facing the GAA. In the last couple of weeks, the conflict has gathered the pace of war as the GAA's decision to, just this once, reserve the summer months for the club, hasn't been met with the kind of cooperation many advocates would expect.
First up, many county boards around the country scheduled club championships in football and hurling to finish far earlier than the allotted October weekend. The rumours started to spread then about county teams meeting for sessions well ahead of the September 14th commencement of official county training. Clubs reported players being unavailable and the rumour mill went into overdrive.
Yesterday, the GAA backtracked on their original decision not to impose sanctions on county boards and managers who break the rules and bring their panels into training before the allotted date.
With the controversy has come a lot of media commentary about the plight of the club player that also has been perceived to be dismissive of the importance of intercounty GAA. There's no doubt the intercounty scene has become inflated in recent years, but undermining its current or historical importance to the GAA would be a huge mistake.
This is something that former Cork goalkeeper and current Cork minor hurling manager Donal Óg Cusack argued on this week's RTE GAA Podcast.
Cusack, who is also the president of the GPA, feels that county players, managers and regimes have been belittled and villanised by a dog with a bone media in recent weeks and months and warned of the danger of reducing the importance of intercounty football and hurling, the games that give the GAA a true national interest.
There’s this perception being put out there that the club player is almost holier than the inter-county player. I would argue the county game is every bit as integral and as historical a component of the GAA as the club game.
It’s vital in terms of showcasing our games, the provision of an elite arena for our players. Like, what do we want? To say we don’t have an elite arena involved in our Association so you should go and play other sports?
I think absolutely we should be catering for the elite aspect of our sports and be proud of it.
I would argue the county is as essential as the clubs themselves in terms of the unifying effect on communities and even the sense of pride in place that it offers, then not to mention the income for building grounds, the grants, the coaching officers.
The laochs, the heroes, we know how important that is to the game, the lads who present medals at the end of the year.
Cusack believes there has been an orchestrated campaign in some parts of the media to drive a wedge between the club and county games, which he believes should be able to coexist easily.
A lot of the people who are making the most noise at the moment are actually people who make money or try to make money off the backs of these very same players.
I do think we need to be very careful because if some of these people have their way the GAA will be as anonymous as the League of Ireland B.
"We have to be very careful in terms of that whole territory.
You can listen to the full RTE GAA podcast here, which also includes a chat with Oisin McConville, here.