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'They're being pulled left, right and centre. It's an absolute farce'

DIT boss Billy O’Loughlin is unhappy with the demands on his players.

Updated at 09.02

DIT MANAGER BILLY O’Loughlin has voiced his frustration at the GAA’s scheduling of its early season competitions, as many of his players juggle Sigerson Cup duties with National League action.

pjimage (13) Brian Howard, Conor Loftus and Ronan Shanahan Source: Inpho

O’Loughlin watched DIT defeat IT Carlow by 1-11 to 0-8 yesterday to set-up a meeting with IT Tralee in the Sigerson quarter-final next Tuesday.

But the Laois native is unhappy with the demands currently on his players, many of whom are in the middle of playing four games in the space of 10 days for college and county.

O’Loughlin used the examples of Brian Howard (Dublin), Ronan Shanahan (Kerry) and Conor Loftus (Mayo), who played Division 1 fixtures for their counties last weekend and will do so again this weekend.

Howard was named on the DIT bench but didn’t feature, but both Shanahan and Loftus played a full 60 minutes for the Dublin college in the first ever Sigerson game held at Granegorman yesterday.

“Something drastically will need to be done with the Sigerson Cup,” O’Loughlin told The42.

“At this stage they’re all scholarship students, they’re all county players and they’re being pulled left, right and centre. It’s an absolute farce that they’ve rammed in the O’Byrne Cup, the leagues and the Sigerson all in on top of one another.

“That’s not fair on county managers either who are trying to get the players, and we’re trying to get the players.

DIT huddle before the game Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

“For example, Brian Howard played at the weekend with Dublin in Croke Park. He played 70 minutes and then he’s supposed to come out and play a Sigerson Cup game on Wednesday, then go play against Tyrone away on Saturday night.

“He’s only 21, that’s highly unfair on him. It’s highly unfair on Jim Gavin and it’s very unfair on us because we all want the player but we don’t want to see him injured or anything like that.

“He’s just one example. Conor Loftus is another example playing with Mayo, Ronan Shanahan playing with Kerry, they’re all examples of lads who’ve played three games this week – two National League games and a Sigerson Cup game on Wednesday. It’s unfair on them. So they’ll have to look at the scheduling of games.”

O’Loughlin believes playing off the third-level competition before Christmas is the best way to ease the burden on college players.

“It has to go before Christmas, there’s too much of a backlog after Christmas. We don’t train lads, we actually don’t get lads to train. They just come out for the games and we have group meetings or whatever because there’s so many of them playing with all different counties.

“There has to be something done to it. It needs to be before Christmas, in November and December when there’s plenty of spare time where mid-week games could be played.

“That’s the way it’s going to have to go. The GAA are so bloody backward nowadays that the decisions they make regarding fixtures really are terrible most of the time.”

One man who hasn’t been distracted by county duty is former AFL player Sean Hurley, who returned home from Australia in late 2016 but left the Kildare panel in February 2017 due to injury.

Sean Hurley with James Mitchell DIT midfielder Sean Hurley Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The Johnstownbridge midfielder has since worked his way back to form with club and college, and gave a powerful performance against IT Carlow yesterday.

At the launch of the Allianz Football Leagues earlier this month, Kildare manager Cian O’Neill indicated he was open to Hurley rejoining the squad at some stage.

“He played some club football, our panel is open ended to be honest with you,” O’Neill said.

“We will continue to monitor club games and if we feel those guys are ready to make that step up, whether someone has been in before or not, we will definitely look at them.”

O’Loughlin has been very impressed with Hurley this year and believes he’s well worth a place in the Lilywhites squad.

“I am baffled how he does not play midfield with Kildare week-in, week-out,” he said.

“He’s every bit as good as anything that Kildare have. You’d see him playing with Johnstownbridge and you saw him out there today, catching marks.

“Sean is a bit of an enigma. His commitment is very good, he’s here all the time. He trains hard, he’s six foot three or four, he uses both feet, he kicks frees, he’s good in the air and he’s a good defender.

“We get on well, myself and Sean. He’s good craic, he’s a good character and you can see why his talent was looked for down in Australia. He’s a good player.

“Thomas Corcoran as well from Roscommon, neither of our midfielders today are on inter-county panels and you’d have to wonder why because they’re seriously, seriously talented.”

The DIT boss hopes to have Howard and Mayo forward Danny Kirby back for the trip to Tralee, while he quipped he “might park a bus in front of [David] Clifford” in the last eight clash.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

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Kevin O'Brien

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