The split season in the GAA calendar is something that many have been calling out for for many years.
For far too long, club players were treated as a complete afterthought when it came to organising the fixture list. They were expected to wait around all summer, never quite knowing when their championship would kick into gear. It made planning for other parts of their life away from the sport incredibly awkward.
Now, with the inter-county season ending earlier and there being little overlap between the two levels, it seems as though a nice balance has been struck.
However, that hasn't stopped many prominent voices within the GAA from complaining about the change.
While the vast majority of players at both levels seem very happy with the way the 2022 calendar has been formulated, a large portion of pundits continue to shout from the rooftops about how the move has been bad for the sport.
Pat Spillane complains about split season yet again
There was a general theme that developed on RTÉ over the summer. Unprompted, pundits would complain about the fact that the inter-county championships would be finished earlier in the year, with the most common issue mentioned being that this would supposedly lead to less exposure for the sport.
Speaking on The Throw-In podcast at the National Ploughing Championships (h/t the Irish Independent) this week, Pat Spillane once again raised this point when saying he wasn't a fan of the split season.
I’m completely against the split season.
We have taken our two best products, inter-county hurling and football, and taken them off the shop window for nine months.
Now, when you take your best product out of the shop window for nine months, you give the opposition a chance. Maybe we’re not going to go as far as the third Sunday in September to play an All-Ireland final, but at least take back the month of August.
And people say, ‘oh, you’re only saying that because you used to get paid for The Sunday Game’ and that’s a load of rubbish. I’m passionate about the GAA and a passionate GAA man, a passionate clubman and I like to see the GAA thriving.
We’ve lost the month of August, we’ve lost the month of September and the main national papers are not talking about club matches. We’re not talking about club matches and we’re losing that opportunity for inter-county games, we need to change it. It’s an own goal...
It’s absolutely stupid playing an All-Ireland in the middle of July. The funds for grassroots come from the inter-county game so without a vibrant inter-county calendar, we’re cutting off our noses to spite our faces.
As has been the case throughout the year, these comments completely miss the mark.
The split season was introduced to give some sort of certainty to the 97 percent of GAA players in this country, the ones who do not play at inter-county level. Previously, they were expected to slog away for nine months, putting their lives on hold as there was no certainty as to when their biggest games of the year would be played.
Now, they can plan holidays and other events, while managers will know when they need their team to peak which should result in better training regiments for all involved.
The argument that moving the Gaelic football and hurling showpieces forward will have a massive negative effect on the exposure of the sport makes little sense.
The popularity of Gaelic games won't fall off a cliff simply because David Clifford is playing in an All-Ireland final in July instead of September.
If anything, the split season should result in more players sticking with GAA as they are given a more organised calendar. Sitting around for months at a time without any certainty of games was one of the main reasons that people stepped away from the sport.
Of course, these comments come from pundits who seem to be focusing solely on the inter-county bubble.
Talk of their being no GAA in the country during the peak months in nonsense. A quick look around the country will show that the game is thriving, with fixtures taking place at all levels in good weather and in front of large crowds.
That hardly seems like a sport in crisis.