The Monaghan star is hoping to see clubs get greater recognition
Darren Hughes is a two-time Ulster Championship winner with Monaghan, but he is a Scotstown player at heart. He wants to see the club player be treated better in 2017.
"We’re all club players", Hughes admitted at the eir Sport launch of their Allianz League coverage. "In Monaghan, we dont have as big of problems because there are less clubs. [The county team] were knocked out early [of the Championship] last year, and problems didn’t arise. The county player always knows his situation, whereas the club player is going to a game and is waiting on the county results. They’re in limbo. I know it’s difficult for them."
The Scotstown star won his third County title last year. He revealed that some of his club teammates can struggle in their preparations if the county team is performing well.
"For our club players, the championship doesn’t start until August. It’s hard to balance work, life, sport and getting that balance right. Everyone is committed to their football but they have a life outside of football too."
The All-Ireland final is traditionally held in the third Sunday of September. The creation of the Club Players Association has seen the date of the game return to focus. Hughes wants it moved back to late August.
"What the CPA is trying to - their number one objective is to move the All-Ireland final back to August. I think it’s a no-brainer… If you laid out the GAA calendar on front of someone now it would never get passed… It needs to be scrapped and give everyone a fair chance."
The GAA calendar is notoriously lop-sided with third-level competitions taking place at the same time as the pre-season games. Hughes feels it is causing undue stress on younger members of the Monaghan squad.
"We have a few under-21s caught in limbo in the last few weeks, between universities, county under-21s and county seniors. I was in that situation myself many years ago. The player wants to play. He doesn’t want to let any manager down. He wants to represent his college. He wants to represent his county. He wants to represent his club. It needs all stakeholders sitting down, talking sensibly about it and getting the right outcome."
Last season was a nadir for the GAA calendar, with the All-Ireland football final not being decided until early October. According to Hughes, it was unfair on inter-county players returning to their clubs wanting to perform at a top-level.
"It had come to the stage for The CPA to be created. There was definitely something that needed to be done. If you look at the Dublin and Mayo players situation from last year. The fact the All-Ireland Final went to a replay. It took an extra 13 days for get it played and they were probably rolled into the Club Championship six days later."
Monaghan's Darren Hughes and Ciaran Kilkenny of Dublin. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy
"How does that give [county players] the opportunity to help out their club?… In some counties these issues don’t arise but everybody is a club player and is committed to their club."
Despite his vocal support of getting greater recognition for the club player, Hughes says the Monaghan County Board treat their clubs well throughout the year, adding they are "very up-to-date. They listen to the players and the club delegates."
With former inter-county players working with The CPA, the dairy farmer is confident of the Association's future.
"The players that are playing now know the most. It’s good to see people like Aaron Kernan and Padraic Joyce involved in The CPA. They have played with their clubs and have been caught in these situations. It shouldn’t have had to come to this, but there definitely needs to be something done to help the club player."
Monaghan’s Darren Hughes was in Dublin to announce details of eir Sport's expanded coverage of the 2017 Allianz Leagues. eir Sport will broadcast a total of 23 live games, an increase from the 17 which have previously been broadcast. eir Sport will also be the first Irish broadcaster to show three live games simultaneously with the overall coverage including five live triple headers.