CLARE senior hurling clubs flexed their muscles at the June meeting of the Clare County Board on Tuesday night in demanding that this weekend’s round of senior championship games go ahead.
And, they had their way as an appeal by the Clare senior management to postpone the games and clear the way for the county team to have an uninterrupted run of preparation ahead of it’s first All-Ireland Qualifier game fell on deaf ears.
After a lively meeting at Clare GAA’s administrative headquarters in Clareabbey, county board chiefs eventually declined putting the request for postponement of club fixtures to a vote, with chairman Michael McDonagh saying that it would be potentially “divisive”. This decision not to put the request from clubs – 15 of which had met at a meeting in the West County Hotel on Monday night, to formalise their opinions as regards to whether the games should go ahead or not – came after a CCCC meeting that took place during a 15-minute adjournment in the middle of the county board meeting.
Instead, five games will go ahead this weekend. These games are: Clonlara v Inagh/Kilnamona, Newmarket-on-Fergus v Tubber, Clarecastle v Tulla, Crusheen v Kilmaley and Whitegate v Ruan.
The decision to give the go-ahead for club games came after to strong views were represented at the board meeting that was kicked off by the contribution of Crusheen manager, who represented the clubs that met on Monday night.
“Last October it was said here at a meeting that it would never again happen that our championship would be postponed,” said Carmody. “As a group of club managers representing clubs we want it put on record that we’re all proud Clare hurling men. We want Clare to go on and retain the All-Ireland title and we want to put it on record that we are fully behind Davy and his management team and believe they are well capable of going on and winning the All-Ireland.
“Fifteen club managers were present representing possible 450 club players. The sentiments raised are central to Clare hurling people on the ground and senior club managers. We want it heard loud and clear that the Clare senior hurling (clubs) and management teams as names at the start of this meeting do not in any way, shape or form want our senior club championship postponed this weekend. That’s on record,” he added.
A letter signed by Clare manager Davy Ftizgerald and selectors Louis Mulqueen and Mike Deegan was read out by chairman Michael McDonagh.
“Our total focus is on preparing for Saturday week and getting us back to a level we need to be at,” said the letter. “It is accepted without question that our clubs have supported us in past in every way. We understand they would find it difficult, but we would once again ask them to stay with us, support us, and give us every chance to defend out All-Ireland title. We would appeal to our clubs to give us this time to completely focus on getting Clare back to where it belongs in Croke Park,” it added.
After that a lengthy debate ensued, during which board chairman Michael McDonagh revealed that because of the row of club fixtures the Clare senior “management won’t be taking responsibility for results going forward”. He later added that “management can guarantee nothing going forward but they will do their best”.
He also admitted that if the games were postponed the had “no idea” when club championship would be resumed, saying that it could be put back as far as September 22.
Cratloe senior manager Joe McGrath, father of All-Ireland winner Conor McGrath, said the attitude of the board over club fixtures was “patronising”, while Colm Honan, father of another All-Ireland winner Darach Honan, appealed for the games to go ahead, pointing out that the county team would only miss out on two training sessions by giving the green light to club fixtures.
Pat Treacy of Scariff said that granting a postponement of fixtures was tantamount to “giving two fingers to clubs” and “telling them to go to hell”, while Whitegate’s Mike Solon hit out at the fact that a senior challenge between Clare and Kilkenny went ahead on the weekend of club championship first round in May.
Kilmaley’s Emmet Pyne said “the future of club game is in serious, serious jeopardy, as 400 to 450 players are affected” by any decision to postpone club games.
Danny Chaplin and Paddy Meehan of Broadford and Sixmilebridge respectively were loud in their criticism of the meeting of club managers, blasting the fact that representatives of the two clubs had not been invited to the meeting.
At the end of the wideranging debate, it was chairman McDonagh who delivered the verdict that the championship games would go ahead this weekend, even though he hinted earlier in the meeting that if Clare are in action the following weekend that defeated club teams could lodge appeals against the validity of their games because of the 13-day rule.
The county board meeting went ahead in Clareabbey while the Clare team were training outside on the pitch, but Clare manager Davy Fitzgerald or any of the management decided against addressing the meeting, leaving it up to the board executive and clubs to arrive at a decision over the fixtures schedule.
* More coverage from this Clare County Board meeting will be in next Tuesday’s edition of The Clare People print edition.