Galway hurling swung into action this week, and one former county player delighted the club game is taking precedence is Portumna's Damien Hayes.
Winner of four AIB All Ireland club hurling medals, the Portumna legend says there is a "huge buzz" in the club having all its county players.
"I’m really excited this year, more than any year, the club players are getting priority," he says. "They are going to be the ones playing during the summer months, when the ground is hard and the fields are in the best condition, all over the country.”
While an honour to play for one's county, Hayes says there is something very special when a club player can go back and train with his club.
"At this time of year it’s a once off that all the county players are training with their clubs, and it brings an air of excitement.
“I always found when I trained with Portumna, the county players used to come back and there would be a better training session and no one would miss it, and we are seeing that now again.”
Hayes believes the result will produce a far more competitive club championship.
"I think it will be a way better championship, and there’s a few early signs that some teams might have a better chance of winning a county championship this time of year.
“The other thing is, some players will have come back from being abroad due to the coronavirus and now the clubs will have a full panel to pick from."
Hayes is currently training Borrisokane, where, he says there are 30 players at training every night.
“We had a challenge match there Sunday morning with Borrisokane and there was a huge buzz about it. People are mad for the GAA to get back up and running again. There is a whole social thing to it as well – even if your team isn’t the best team in the world. Be it football, hurling or camogie, anyone who is going down to training, wants to go training and there’s a new enthusiasm too it.”
The former Galway star says it will also benefit inter-county managers who can select players based on club form
“The inter-country manager now has an opportunity to pick club players on form. There would have been some players who mightn’t have been going well. I often struggled in training with Galway in January and February when the fields were a bit wet and heavy. Now this time of year, you are going to see the fast, skillful, elite player coming in to his own. I think it’s an opportunity for the county manager to pick club players on form.”
"When you get on a bit of a run, and with the club championships being run off a lot quicker, I definitely think there is an opportunity there.
“It is absolutely brilliant we are coming back to play a few games and get back to a bit of competitive action. I think it was very important from the mental side of things for players.
But the main thing, he says: "You have a bit of craic and a bit of fun to bring the element of happiness to the squad as well.”