Derry manager Rory Gallagher. (Pic: Tom Heaney)
Derry senior football manager Rory Gallagher would not be in favour of the split season, if it leaves club players with up to seven months without 'competitive' games.
Gallagher, an All-Ireland winner with St Gall's, can see how the GPA's proposals to shorten the inter-county season can take the 'conflict' out of the age old club versus county debate, but feels the a change has already begun.
“I feel it (club versus county issue) has improved an awful lot,” Gallagher said “Can it get better...it absolutely can. I would be concerned with club players going five, six or seven months without competitive games.”
Gallagher said he would like to see the full detail of the GPA's proposals before making up his mind, though his narrative was consistent during an interview with the County Derry Post - county players must not go for large spells of the year without playing for their clubs.
“I think that's wrong,” he stressed. “ I would love to see a clearly defined period where county players must play in 80 percent of their clubs' games and come up with a formula.”
Gallagher pointed to the possibility of having every county's domestic championship run off on a similar structure, with county players all lining out.
“The first thing is, county players want to play club football. They love playing with their team mates and the local people and they love playing competitive games.”
Gallagher coached Donegal under Jim McGuinness as they went in search of Sam Maguire in 2011 and 2012, a period when the club championship had 'big breaks' between the games.
“There was very little club football played by the county players,” Gallagher recalls, of a situation when a county is constantly challenging for major honours.
“It is very hard to expect a player to serve two masters. When you get to an All-Ireland quarter-final or semi-final stage, it becomes totally consuming and it leaves it difficult for clubs...I think with the shorter season (this year), there has been a lot of improvements made.”
Derry are due to face Armagh in the first round of the Ulster championship and while he is meeting some of the players in person, to touch base with them, Gallagher is happy for his squad to be at the coalface in the club championship.
“It is going to get to the nitty gritty stage. As the year progresses and teams start to go out of the championship, we will engage more, but now we are more than happy to let them focus on their clubs,” said Gallagher.
He will have to plan without Karl McKaigue, who has yet to play under him due to an ankle injury before their league opener with Leitrim in January.
Gallagher described the news of McKaigue's Achilles injury in Slaughtneil's hurling championship win over Ballinascreen as 'deflating'.
“You'd be sitting drawing up teams and he'd always be in it. We were looking forward to the Armagh game and he would've been a key man marker,” Gallagher laments.
“On a personal level, I was looking forward to trying to improve him. He is obviously a very talented player, but we have a job to get more out of him and I was also looking forward to that challenge.”
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