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Skelly call for January finals

CROKE PARK'S club final parade on St Patrick's Day should be rerouted to a much earlier date in the calendar, according to Leinster GAA's top elected official.

Leinster Council chairman Martin Skelly has called for the All-Ireland senior finals to be played in January instead of their traditional March 17 slot, claiming it's "outrageous" that the business end of the GAA's premier club competitions drag on for so long.

St Patrick's Day is enshrined in the GAA calendar as the traditional 'Holy Grail' date for all ambitious club outfits chasing All-Ireland coronation.

But Skelly believes it is high-time the schedule was re-examined, highlighting how this year's Leinster club senior deciders in both codes will take place on December 9 - well over three months before the All-Ireland finals take place.

It's even worse for Connacht kingpins St Brigid's who, after retaining their provincial SFC crown last Sunday, will be waiting almost three months to play their All-Ireland semi-final.

"I have strong views on the competition going through to March. I think it's outrageous that it takes three months to play the other two games in the competition, the semi-final and the final," Skelly told the Herald.

Pushing

"I think the competition should be completed in January - I have no doubt about that. There is no good or valid reason (to run until March)."

The Longford official falls short of calling for the club finals to be played before Christmas, declaring: "I think the calendar year is pushing it."

But he's adamant that the All-Ireland semi-finals and finals could be played in January, before the inter-county season proper - in the guise of the National Leagues - kicks off in earnest.

Skelly favours change because the status quo can wreak havoc with the spring ambitions of non-elite counties reliant on a relatively small pick. Whenever one of their standard-bearer clubs goes on an extended All-Ireland run, these counties are invariably deprived some of their top players for most if not all of their league campaign.

"Roscommon have an extremely successful team like Brigid's, and those players won't be available to a developing county team like Roscommon. It probably cost them promotion last year," he argued.

Suffered

"Antrim hurlers have suffered with their early preparation for the National League. They weren't able to take part in the Walsh Cup earlier this year because the Loughgiel players weren't available."

He also cited the example of Westmeath's Garrycastle, whose marathon SFC campaign went to the very end of March after drawing with Crossmaglen last St Patrick's Day. "Dessie (Dolan) never came back. Counties like Westmeath need all their players. I think Pat Flanagan did great to avoid relegation," said Skelly.

"I'm sure we could provide some other GAA festival, if the need for a GAA festival in Croke Park on St Patrick's Day is there," he continued.

"Here we are, trying to tighten up the (All-Ireland) qualifiers, and still we have a competition where by and large, on the second Sunday of December, we will know all the teams that are going to be involved ... and still the competition doesn't finish until the middle of March. That's over three months to complete two further rounds."


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