Three-month wait for club finals is crazy
No doubt there will be enthusiastic celebrations for the provincial club champions, starting with St Brigid's in Connacht, but when they reflect on where they go from here, they may wonder what is going on as regards the closing stages of the All-Ireland championship.
Believe it or not, whichever two teams qualify for the final in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day will be waiting for over three months in order to play just two games of football. The All Ireland semi-finals will be played in the middle of February and, a month later, the final will take place.
There are a lot of fixture anomalies within the GAA, but there can hardly be a crazier one than the club championship. Bear in mind that some clubs start their own county championships in May, meaning a team getting to the All-Ireland final on March 17 would have a campaign lasting 10 months!
The majority view in the GAA seems to be that the club championship should be finished off in the same calendar year, around this time, but there are two main reasons why this does not happen. Firstly, the desire to have a showpiece game in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day – like the old Railway Cup was for about 50 years – and secondly, it would not be possible to get the full number of provincial fixtures played off by December, especially in Leinster.
Of course, if all counties were to run off their own championships in good time, things could be different, but don't hold your breath on that one.
So, we get this inordinate delay of three months in order to play three games in total to finish the club championship.
Given the long, drawn-out journey to the final, it is no wonder that since the club football championship started in 1971, the holders have only retained their crown on four occasions – UCD (1975), St Finbarr's of Cork ('81) and Crossmaglen (2000 and 2012).