Gearoid Hegarty a big fan of split season GAA calendar
By John Harrington
Limerick hurler Gearoid Hegarty believes the new GAA calendar that splits the season between inter-county and club action has already proven to be a big success in its first year.
There has been some critical commentary that the inter-county schedule has been too condensed in order to give club championships greater room to breathe, but the 2020 Hurler of the Year doesn’t agree.
“I'm personally a big fan of it,” he said today when announced as the PWC GAA/GPA Hurler of the Month for July.
“I think the demands on the players nowadays are getting harder and harder. Shortening the season a small bit, it is putting pressure on you from game-to-game; if you get a niggle, you might miss two or three games, but that's just life.
“Every single inter-county team this year would have trained over 100 times, and some of them 150 times depending on when they went back and how far they went in the championship. If you think about training 150 times for maybe six league games, and five or six championship games, there's no other sport in the world that does that.
“Look at the Premier League, they're playing games every single week. Basketball in America, NFL, it's all games week on week.
“I know it's tough, but in my opinion, as a player what you want is games. You don't want a game followed by a five-week block of training before your next game. That's much harder to me than it would be to have a game, and recover for a couple of days, and have a game the following week or even a two-week break to the next game.
“Players want games, spectators want games. I think it's great. I think the split season is brilliant. I know it was very shortened. I'm not saying it's the perfect solution; I don't think there is a perfect solution. Maybe it could be made slightly better, I'm not sure, but I thought this year was very beneficial. This year was a success, definitely.”
Hegarty believes the positive impact a split season has on club championships has already been very apparent in Limerick in recent weeks with games now being played at the height of summer.
“Look at the wet weather that the club championships have been played in over the last number of years…I know, down in Limerick, there's been record attendances at club games down in Limerick over the last number of weeks,” he says.
“There were thousands at a Premier Intermediate game a couple of weeks ago in Clarina between Kildimo and Mungret who are local rivals.
“Spectators are getting to go to club games again in August in beautiful weather. Club players are getting to play proper championship games on good surfaces. There's been a bit of focus on the negatives around it. Yes, the season is condensed but there are so many positives associated with the split season as well.”
Hegarty has played two Junior A Championship matches with St. Patricks in recent weeks and admits it’s a been a big culture shock to compete at that relatively low level of the game so soon after winning an All-Ireland Final in Croke Park with Limerick.
“I'd be lying if I said it was anything other than extremely tough,” he says. “You go from our set-up at inter-county level which is obviously extremely high, it's pretty much professional without it being in name. You go from the Gaelic Grounds for training with brand new bags of sliotars waiting for you to puck around with and to train with.
“Our first club championship game was in a thunderstorm against Kileedy a couple of weeks ago on a Saturday night and we went back training on Tuesday down in the field and the grass was about six inches long and the sliotars were soaked from the game on Saturday night, they weren't dried out.
“I just said, 'wow, what trip back down to earth from the highs that we had over the last number of weeks'. But, look, that's the club scene. It's like a different sport but it's great to be involved at the same time.
“It's on such a smaller scale but it means so much as well because they're the lads that you would have grown up hurling with. And now obviously my brother is on the team as well with the club. We need to hopefully get back up intermediate because there's so much work going on in my club at underage level and it'll be a number of years before we see the fruition of that.
“It would be nice to get back up intermediate for the crop of players that is coming through. I was down there recently giving out medals at underage training recently for U-8s, U-10s, and U-12s and, honest to God, there must have been 30 or 40 of them at every age-group.
“That mightn't be big numbers for some, but we're a really small club in inner-city Limerick so to have 30 at any age-group is a massive achievement for us. There's a huge amount of work going in at underage in our club. It'll take time, but we're on the right path for sure.”