Cats clash brings Fitzgibbon chaos
THE unprecedented decision to reschedule Kilkenny and Tipperary's postponed NHL opener for tonight (8.0) has caused serious problems for colleges involved in this week's Fitzgibbon and Ryan Cup quarter-finals.
Eight players -- Kilkenny's Willie O'Dwyer (DIT), PJ Ryan (IT Carlow), Sean Cummins (UCD) and John Mulhall (QUB), and Tipperary's Seamus Callanan (Limerick IT), Shane McGrath (Mary I), Seamus Hennessy (NUIG) and Patrick Stapleton (UL) -- are supposed to be involved in big college games scheduled for tomorrow.
The Higher Education GAA authority, which had an official Fitzgibbon Cup launch at NUI Galway yesterday, were forced to text all of their quarter-finalists yesterday morning to offer them alternatives, so that their star players aren't forced to play two big games within 24 hours.
"I genuinely don't think there was anything malicious in it, I just think Kilkenny and Tipperary simply agreed on the spot to play their game tonight and no one thought about the Fitzgibbon games," said Michael Mallie, the Higher Education chairman.
"As soon as that happened, it was out of our hands immediately, but what we have done is give all of our colleges the option to move their games back a day if both sides are agreeable.
"UCD and Limerick IT have already agreed to move their Fitzgibbon quarter-final to Thursday.
"We have yet to confirm if anyone else is taking up the offer."
Setanta television denied yesterday that they had anything to do with the decision to refix the game for its unusual midweek date.
"We had absolutely nothing to do with the refixing of the game," stressed Setanta Television Ireland's customer acquisition director Brian Quinn.
"We were under absolutely no compunction to cover the refixture and the date was only confirmed yesterday.
"We have decided to cover it tonight because it is such a big game and there is so much public interest in it, but we moved our equipment out of Thurles at the weekend and have to bring it all down there again.
"We are going out of our way to cover it now but had nothing to do with the refixing of it."
The current Division 1 NHL format means that the season is now extremely compacted, with seven rounds in nine weeks.
That gave the GAA little or no wriggle-room to make the refixture when last Saturday's league opener was snowed off in Thurles.
With such a condensed league season, both Kilkenny and Tipperary were extremely anxious to get the postponed game out of the way as quickly as possible and they agreed on tonight.
One upcoming free Sunday is March 7, but that is also the Fitzgibbon weekend in NUIG, with semi-finals and the final on consecutive days, which made that date unsuitable.
Entry to Semple Stadium tonight is free but the authorities will be keeping their fingers crossed that they are not hit again by the weather as there is some sleet and snow forecast for Munster.
Both counties have named the same starting teams as in the original tie. However, Tipperary wing-back Shane Maher will undergo a late fitness test today to see if he has recovered from a dead leg which would have prevented him starting last Saturday.
Tipperary -- B Cummins; C O'Brien, Curran, B Maher; D Fanning, P Maher, S Maher; B Dunne, S McGrath; S Hennessy, S Callanan, H Maloney; E Kelly (capt), M Webster, N McGrath.
Kilkenny -- PJ Ryan; C Hickey, B Hogan, J Dalton; T Walsh, J Tyrrell, JJ Delaney; W Dwyer, PJ Delaney; R Hogan, M Rice, A Fogarty; M Grace, M Comerford, R Power.
REF -- B Kelly.
Tipperary v Kilkenny,
Live, Setanta Ireland, 8.0
Fitzgibbon Cup quarter-final line-up: Limerick IT v UCD; NUIG v St Pat's Drumcondra; UL v UCC (holders); Waterford IT v DIT.