Limerick great Eamonn Cregan has described the GAA’s fixtures calendar as “madness” and is unhappy that the country’s elite players are "playing hurling in shite conditions."

Cregan, a 1973 All-Ireland SHC medallist, was speaking in advance of preparing a depleted Mary Immaculate College team for today’s Fitzgibbon Cup opener against NUI Galway and he clearly doesn’t agree with the timing of the competition.

“It’s madness”, said the former Limerick and Offaly boss. 

"It has always been at this time of the year but we have poor weather at the moment, there’s the problem of getting pitches and fellas training in the mud.  

“We don’t do any physical training with the players, you can’t, you’d kill them if you tried that. We have a number of county players so what we can do is just hurl and make the best of that. 

“We’re going out against NUIG and the forecast is for heavy rain and very strong winds. You can imagine what the pitch is going to be like above in Galway. 

"Down the road, these fellas will walk away from the game and that’s not what you want either" - Eamonn Cregan

“Here you have the elite of the country playing in shite conditions.” 

Cregan was also critical of the demands placed on young players at this time of the year.

“I had a Freshers session the other night and a number of lads couldn’t make it because they were training with their club. 

“Training with their club, in January? I think we’re gone mad. Managers have now become an elite group in themselves. 

“As I said, we don’t do any physical whatsoever. It’s all hurling and if we don’t, our fellas are going to be knocked up. 

"Down the road, these fellas will walk away from the game and that’s not what you want either. You want them playing well into their 20s and maybe over their 30s but some of them won’t, they’ll stop at 28. 

“Then you have this club competition which goes into February and March.

“Why not condense the inter-county season? Why should you wait five or six weeks for your second match? What’s the thinking behind that?” 

Cregan is planning without at least five top players for the competition opener – including current Tipp senior panellists Niall O’Meara, Sean Curran and Seamus Kennedy.

O’Meara and Curran are both carrying hamstring injuries, while Clonmel Commercials player Kennedy is not being considered due to his forthcoming AIB All-Ireland senior club semi-final against Ballyboden St Enda’s.

Galway’s Sean Linnane is just back from a dislocated collarbone and Clare’s Liam Corry is also out as he recovers from a hand injury.

Cregan added: “We had Ronan Maher and Stephen Cahill playing in a (Tipperary) U21 county final last Sunday (with Thurles Sarsfields)."