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Leo McLoone says club finals on St Patrick's Day 'didn't make sense'
Last Updated: 26/11/19 6:50pm
With the GAA examining avenues to ease the burden on players, it was agreed that the club finals ought to be moved away from their traditional St Patrick's Day slot.
Given the long run-in to the semi-finals and finals, as well as its overlap with National League and third-level competitions, the club season will now be concluded in January.
It's a move that makes sense for players.
"I think it is a positive," said Donegal and Naomh Conaill footballer Leo McLoone.
"It has been done with the players' interests [in mind]. It didn't make a lot of sense that club teams would have to wait a month or more on a game and then another month for a final.
"It does make sense that the season, as a whole for all teams, will be compacted. There's a lot going on and players are getting burnt out."
The counter-argument was that Paddy's Day held a spot in the calendar where GAA was the centre of attention.
"It was always a special day in the GAA calendar. St Patrick's Day was the club finals and it was a nice day for it," continued McLoone. "People were off work. There's that element too that it had to happen. When you're putting things together for a whole season and players have to play for their counties in the same season, it makes sense."
It all leads to a more condensed calendar.
However, you will not hear many complaints from Glenties about too many matches in a short space of time.
Naomh Conaill had to face Gaoth Dobhair three times to edge the Donegal final, with the second replay taking place on a Wednesday evening in order for the winner to have time for the ensuing Ulster quarter-final.
"It was a nerve-wracking time, but it was also a great time from the club's behalf," laughed the county star.
"It was kind of a special time really, the place was on a high.
"We were nervous going into the finals, but there was also a lovely buzz looking back on it.
"Life was on hold, really, for a few days.
"It was kind of crazy the way the games were being thrown on us. When you come out the other side of it, it leaves a nice taste."
If we were to get beaten, we'd like to get beaten playing football...I don't think penalties is a great way to end a championship campaign.
McLoone was happy with the hectic schedule
Throughout the saga, many felt that the teams would be better served by the result being decided on the day, even if it came down to penalties.
But the players didn't subscribe to that theory.
"I think we were fairly certain that if we were to get beaten, we'd like to get beaten playing football," said McLoone.
"I don't think penalties is a great way to end a championship campaign.
"If we had to come back on the Saturday again, for a fourth replay, I think we would have done it."
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And when they eventually got over the line, there wasn't much time for celebrations, with their Ulster first-round meeting with Castlerahan looming large on the horizon.
"We won the final on a Wednesday and we weren't back into town until half one that night and time just all rolled into one day really," McLoone recounted.
"Thursday night we wrapped up [celebrations] and Friday we did a bit of a light session as you can imagine. Just a bit of a warm-up but it was good to get everyone together and get focused for the Ulster Championship game against Castlerahan."
Of course, they dipped into the energy reserves to see off the Cavan outfit, and a win over Clontibret soon followed.
On Sunday afternoon, they face Kilcoo as they hunt provincial glory for the first time in the club's history, and what would be only Donegal's third-ever triumph.
They do not have far to look for inspiration though.
"Gaoth Dobhair showed the way, that there's room in Ulster for Donegal teams to advance," he noted.
Having come this far, Naomh Conaill will want to go one step further.