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Nicky Brennan on his Covid-19 battle | wanting All-Ireland open-draw format

Nicky Brennan describes his battle with Covid-19, and talked about the challenges and conflicts coming as the 2020 season approaches

Nicky Brennan describes his battle with Covid-19, and talked about the challenges and conflicts coming as the 2020 season approaches.

BY SHANE STAPLETON
Former GAA president and ex-Kilkenny manager Nicky Brennan acknowledges that some inter-county bosses may hold sway over how county championships are run.

It has long been a bone of contention among clubs that they do not get sufficient time in the GAA calendar and limited access to county players, and these issues may be intensified in the coming months.

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County championships are set to begin on July 31, with the inter-county season commencing on October 17 — though training is permitted for the latter from September 14.

That has set the two levels of the game on a collision course, as many clubs will be facing into the latter stages of their county championships just as inter-county bosses call their players back for the first time in six months.

Over the past couple of years since the introduction of the April club month, inter-county managers have often pushed for clubs to play their games early in the month — and sometimes not at all until later in the year — to allow them prepare for the summer championships.

Brennan accepts that conflicts are coming down the tracks, and knows that inter-county managers in some counties hold enough sway to dictate county championship structures.

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“They do in some cases,” says the former GAA president. “That’s why it’s important now that a timeline and structure has been laid out, and county boards are probably finalising those structures within their counties this week.

“They better sit down with their team managers and not be having a big fight closer to when these competitions are taking place.

“That there is a clear understanding of the games that have to be played and the timeline, and the fairness of letting the county player have access to the club.

“Not just post-September 14 to play the games, but that they’re there the odd night in the field when lads are training and to have that sort of camaraderie in the club that’s required to make a success of the championship.

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“I think there are going to be a lot of conflicts,” he adds. “For a long time we have been hearing about the challenges of the club environment out there.

“By putting the club competition into a specific window, we’re seeing that different counties are going to have to come up with different formulas to run their competitions.

“Some will do it on full knockout, more on a mini league system with maybe four groups of three, more might run off some leagues before championships.

“This will be an interesting exercise to see what will happen.

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“With club competitions starting sometime in July and county finals beginning in early October, county senior training to start on September 14, I can immediately see conflict where county managers will want access to players on September 14.

“Yet the club championships at various grades are not going to be completed, so there is a potential for conflict.

“That is a particular issue in dual counties where both codes are on equal measures.”

Brennan wonders if some will have to pick one code at club level, and accepts that “this will put a hell of a lot of pressure on players.”

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The Conahy Shamrocks man spoke about the future of the provincial and All-Ireland club series in his interview with OurGame (top of the page), and whether they may yet be played without county stars.

He also spoke of how counties’ preparations for championship may yet depend on how much club activity their players are put through.

When asked his preference for this year’s inter-county championships, he spoke of the merits of a fresh system — that this is a free shot to try something new.

“I probably wouldn’t mind seeing, for the year that’s in it, an open draw,” Brennan says.

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“Groups of teams where every county gets two or three games, all played in parallel with each other.

“It’s an opportunity to try something out, and I know provincial councils might lose out, but I think this is an opportunity.

“Give inter-county players a couple of games and see how supporters might perceive it. It would be worth testing the formula to see how it might work out.”

Brennan endured a tough time after being diagnosed with Covid-19 a couple of months ago, and speaks of the tough time he endured.

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Not only that, but he describes the stresses within his family, with his brother running five nursing homes.

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