Pope set to delay All-Ireland football final
The 2018 All-Ireland football final may not take place in the month of August after all because of the probability of the visit of Pope Francis to Ireland next year.
The Papal visit, to coincide with the World Meeting of Families which the Archdiocese of Dublin is hosting, has not yet been confirmed while the schedule of events hasn't been finalised.
But the expectation is that a Mass on Sunday, August 26 will conclude the six-day event with Croke Park the preferred venue, having hosted 80,000 for the Eucharistic Congress in 2012, and the GAA open to accommodating it.
That was the new date being pencilled in for the All-Ireland football final in the draft masters fixture plan which was circulated two weeks ago with the hurling championship proposals which were discussed at the weekend by Central Council. A motion to stage the All-Ireland finals in August, at least three weeks earlier, was passed into rule at Congress in February in an effort to create more room for club activity at the back end of the year.
But if Croke Park is confirmed as the venue for the Papal Mass, the All-Ireland football final will have to be pushed back out by a week to Sunday, September 2.
Central Council delegates agreed to this in principle last weekend, with the football final to be played in August the following year.
In 2006, the GAA brought forward the dates of the All-Ireland finals by a week so that the football final would avoid a clash with the final day of the Ryder Cup being staged in The K Club.
The first and third Sundays of September have remained the dates for the hurling and football finals since then until the present day..
Meanwhile, three of the All-Ireland 2A qualifiers have been confirmed for Saturday week.
Mayo will host Derry in Castlebar (throw-in 5.0), while Donegal will play Longford at the same time in Ballybofey. Meath will host Sligo in Navan at the later time of 6.0.
A decision on what day to play the Laois v Clare qualifier has been held delayed.
The winners of those four games will play off in 3A qualifiers two weeks later.
Elsewhere, Semple Stadium, O’Donnell Park (Letterkenny), Dr Hyde Park, Innovate Wexford Park, St Conleth’s Park (Newbridge) and Páirc Uí Rinn have been shortlisted for the inaugural best pitch award.
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