Saturday 21 October 2017

Offaly and Kildare set to light up Leinster with Friday clash

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

LEINSTER are planning to break with tradition by playing a senior championship game on a Friday night next year.

They are still in the process of working out what tie will feature in an experiment which, if successful, is likely to lead to more championship action moving away from traditional Saturday/Sunday slots in future seasons.

"We're trying to come up with a suitable game for a Friday night," said Leinster Council chairman Martin Skelly.

"Obviously, it has to be a local derby so that there isn't too much travelling involved.

"There are a lot of considerations to be taken into account in terms of overall fixture planning, but we're hopeful it will work out. We believe that playing a game on a Friday night could prove very attractive."

The Offaly v Kildare Leinster quarter-final looks an obvious contender, with Portlaoise as the venue.

Championship games on weekdays (other than Bank Holiday Mondays) are extremely rare, but there's a growing view in the GAA that Friday evening action could prove popular with supporters and television audiences.

Leinster are also planning a new format for the pre-season O'Byrne Cup competition, featuring regular midweek games throughout January.

Five third-level colleges will join 11 county teams (Kilkenny won't be competing) to provide four groups of four, compiled on a regional basis. Each team will play three games, with the winners in each group qualifying for the semi-finals.

Games will be played at weekends and midweek, providing all teams with lots of match practice as they gear up for the Allianz League and third-level competitions.

"It's a more exciting format than the knockout system where winners advanced and losers played in the Shield," said Skelly.

"The O'Byrne Cup is an important competition on two fronts.

"It provides county and college teams with an opportunity to get ready for the more important tests ahead, while the finance raised goes to help a hardship fund for GAA members who may have fallen on hard times."

Irish Independent

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