"I don't think the League will be taken seriously" - Hogan calls on GAA to think about the club players 2 months ago

"I don't think the League will be taken seriously" - Hogan calls on GAA to think about the club players

As things stand, it's going to be a long summer for the sidelined club player.

With J1s off the cards, Saturday nights a distant memory and with holidays, for the most part, a no-go, it's no wonder last week's communication from the GAA didn't go down well.

While a summer club season could be a saving grace in the no-man's-land, the association's apparent intention to begin the 2021 season with the inter-county leagues followed by the inter-county championship has 97% of the organisation's playing population ready to sit in and watch on.

Again.

Last year, the majority of club championships were wrapped up by September meaning that, with the proposed plan of action for 2021, every club player in the country will have gone more than a year without a minute of championship game-time.

Former Tipperary goalkeeper and current St Rynagh's hurling manager Ken Hogan feels that September is too late of a start date for the club championship and argues that at this stage, the national league should for the greater good be sacrificed.

It was a family affair as Maynooth won the 2018 Ryan Cup. Hogan pictured with sons Brian and Cian.

"Everybody was hoping for this time-frame where everything could begin on April 1st," says the Lorrha man.

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"Losing the elite status was a big, big blow to the GAA because that has put us back three or four weeks that we don't really have.

"We're four weeks down the road now and I'm just worried about the League situation, should there be a national league at all. Numbers are still high. The less games that are played, the less chance that there will be an outbreak. So my idea would be that championship should go ahead in May."

Hogan is of the opinion that with championship only around the corner, this season's national league will become a dead rubber.

"There's talk that the league would only finish up a week before the championship starts, so it's hard to see teams fielding strongly. Contemplating playing the National League is just playing with fire in my opinion because I don't think it will be taken seriously. I don't think it will even come into the equation of preparing for championship, not the way things are this year. A challenge game behind closed doors would be seen as a more suitable means of preparation by most inter-county managers.

"When you consider that there'll be no crowds there too, it just doesn't seem worthwhile running that competition if that means pushing the club championship back to September."

As some inter-county managers criticise the lack of preparation time in the proposed four week lead-in, Hogan isn't having any of it.

"Even the dogs in the street is fit at this stage. Everybody has been walking, running, training, cycling, if nothing else just to keep their minds at ease.

"We all know what players want, players want games. I remember when county boards would meet on a Tuesday night and would say 'you're playing on Saturday.' If we survived it with five days, I'm sure the county teams can survive with three weeks..."

The brighter evenings of mid-August are much more accommodating, and Hogan is calling on the GAA to take the interests of the club player into account.

"There will be no travel, no holidays as such this year so it's going to be a long summer waiting for the club player. It's good that inter-county teams are finally back training on the 19th, but that's only 2 or 3% of our players.

"In most counties, it would take 10 to 12 weeks to complete the club championship, between football and hurling, bringing most of them into December. I'm just worried that it will be pushed back too late, and I think a mid-August start would be much better, with the benefit of light in the evenings, with better pitches. By September, you're heading into the winter months, dark nights, I just hope the GAA will take all of that into account. If you could get just two more weeks for the club, it would be a huge thing for them and it would make a huge difference. I think the GAA are smart enough and they will take this into account."

The Offaly senior hurling final was one of the many club deciders that fell by the wayside last year and as St Rynagh's manager, Hogan was disappointed with the way things played out on that front.

"We would have played the county final mid-week last year if we had to, just to get it played. It's awful disappointing for the players and supporters to reach a county final and not to have it played. It wasn't just in Offaly, it happened in Laois, Kildare, Cork, Carlow and elsewhere too, but when there was just one game left to be played, the gun was jumped there. Listen, it was unfortunate, we're not bitter, you can't be bitter and you have to take it at face value.

"Going back training now, at least we're going back training knowing that we are preparing for a county final, it is some incentive for us. It's the only positive we have to take out of it."