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'It is frustrating because the year ends so rapidly' - Collins explains why players want football reform

Proposal B would guarantee every county seven championship games in the summer months.

Podge Collins speaking at a GPA Media Conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry.
Podge Collins speaking at a GPA Media Conference at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry.
Image: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

GIVEN CLARE HAVE met Kerry seven times in the Munster championship over the past eight years, it’s no surprise to hear that the Banner players are in favour of radical reform to the football structures. 

More often than not during Colm Collins’s reign, the perennial All-Ireland contenders have stood in the way of Clare in the province.

On occasion they managed to put it up to their neighbours in Cusack Park, but trips to Killarney usually resulted in moral-sapping hidings.

“Every time Clare and Kerry go into the hat they seem to be drawn together,” the manager’s son Podge wryly observed.

The 2013 Hurler of the Year nominee has been committed to the county’s football set-up for the past couple of seasons. As a member of the GPA’s National Executive Committee, Collins says there’s a groundswell of support for Proposal B among the squad and further afield.

“I haven’t got any push-back off the Clare players anyway,” he said. “And players I have spoken to from other counties, they seem to be all in favour of it.

“I think it’s gathering so much momentum from a players point of view because it is just so much better than the status quo that is there. I don’t think it’s a popular opinion just to support this, I genuinely think it’s the best proposal and that is why it’s getting so much support. 

“As a player, if the status quo stays and we draw Kerry again then I’ll have the exact same mindset – where I’ll be like ‘right, I need to get myself as right as I can.’ For someone on the outside, or even people within our own county maybe, they mightn’t have that opinion – they might think ‘oh no, Kerry again.’”

Option B guarantees seven championship games in the summer, which would do wonders for the development of a county like Clare. 

The past two seasons – albeit disrupted by Covid – saw the Banner play just two championship games. 

“It is frustrating because the year ends so rapidly. You put a lot into it. You are preparing your body all year round but it starts kind of in November.

“The league for a lot of teams unfortunately, for 25 or 26 teams, it’s their championship, it’s their most important thing, because as soon as that ends the likelihood of winning Sam for a lot of teams – it’s just not there.

“So you are playing a competition where it would be over in one game, it’s cutthroat. But with this format that is being proposed, you just don’t have that, it’s a completely different mindset.”

Eoin Cleary managed to get himself an All-Star nomination this year, largely on the back of a fine league campaign. A forward of his calibre deserves a platform on the big stage in the height of the summer, but Cleary’s championship was over almost as soon as it started.

“He’s just an excellent player, and it’s just a pity that this year we only got to see him once in the championship,” said Collins. “People were able to look at him in the National League and some of the performances he put in during the National League were exceptional.

“His performance up in Kildare was just out of this world, some of the points he was kicking. As a Clare fan you don’t get to see him again in championship, which is disappointing.”

The proposed format would allow a player like Cleary get “plenty of exposure and at the right time of the year, you are playing during the summer when the ground is hardening up and the evenings are longer and people want to watch games.”

For Collins, 29, the clock is ticking on his inter-county career. He feels the GPA’s preferred choice could help reinvigorate players as well as the competition. 

“Players are still going to walk away from the games because of levels of commitment or for work or family purposes or whatever, but I do feel players will be more intrigued to play in this format where you have seven competitive championship games at the height of summer.

“As a player you are just licking your lips at that thought, so I think you will have more players intrigued to play these big games.”

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The prospect of Friday night championship games has been floated by the GPA and it appeals to the Cratloe clubman. 

“I like the idea of it. But obviously it would have to be counties that are close to each other, you couldn’t have a situation where lads would be missing out on work or college, and as amateur players that is where it’s going to be an issue.

“But listen, an 8pm game between Clare and Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds under lights in Gaelic football, there’s not a lot on on a Friday evening competition wise, so you’d have a lot of people tuning in to view that game on TV.

“I’d be definitely open to it, like you see in other sports – the NFL runs on Monday night and Thursday nights, the same in soccer with Monday Night Football – you’d be more inclined to watch a game on a Monday night than on a Sunday at 3.30pm when there is so much on, so I think it would be something to look at.”

Asked if he has closed the door on hurling again with Clare, Collins responded: “I genuinely from when I was a kid loved playing hurling and football.

“GAA is an amateur game, so once you are happy with your own decisions and happy with what you are doing yourself personally then it’s very easy to just get on with it.

“I don’t get bogged down thinking back on it or different years. At the moment I’m playing football (with Clare), enjoying football, and I get to play hurling and football with my club, and I love doing that.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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