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Skelly -- We'd love to bring Leinster club finals forward

THE Leinster Council would love to stage its showpiece club finals before December -- but that can only happen if counties take the initiative by completing their own senior championships at an earlier date.

So says provincial chairman Martin Skelly (right), reacting to criticism of the GAA's fixture calendar following Sunday's postponement of the Leinster club SHC semi-final between Oulart-The Ballagh and Ballyhale Shamrocks.

"We are hostages to the weather," complained Oulart manager Pat Herbert, who insisted hurling should not be played in December and January.

"This time of the year is a nightmare for us," said Skelly in response. "We would be very much in favour of bringing the games forward, if it was at all possible."

The Leinster chief agrees that scheduling is an issue. "I believe county finals, except in very exceptional circumstances, should be played in the first or second week of October," he suggested. "Going into December is a very difficult time for clubs to finish. But in saying that, it's a matter of fact that we don't play enough (club games) during the summer months.

"A lot of the time we advocate that the club is the most important part of our whole structure. But in practice, county players in a lot of counties play very minor roles with their clubs. That is against the very ethos of what the association should be about.

"There are times in the year, particularly between January and April, where there is so much inter-county activity. But after that players should be more available, and during lull periods in our championships they should be able to go back to their clubs."

Patrons can attend next Sunday's refixed semi-final at Wexford Park free of charge as a "gesture" to fans who made the trip in vain last Sunday.

"What happened in Wexford is terrible for players and fans alike -- and for administrators as well. It's a lose-lose for everybody," said Skelly. "There wasn't 150 who had paid in when the call was made, but the fact is that people had already made the journey and we would appreciate the people who travelled."

The postponement has wreaked havoc with Leinster plans to stage its senior club finals on consecutive weekends. Instead, both the SFC decider (between Ballymun and Portlaoise in Mullingar) and the SHC final (where Kilcormac-Killoughey lie in wait) are now pencilled in for identical 2pm throw-ins on Sunday week, December 9.



Smith's sweating on results of knee scan

KILDARE football fans are still anxiously awaiting definitive word on Alan Smith's knee injury sustained on Leinster club SFC duty with Sarsfields last Sunday.

A scan has been delayed until either today or tomorrow because of the swelling, amid fears -- aired by Smith on his own Twitter account -- that he could have damaged his cruciate ligament.

Having spoken to the player's father, Sarsfields PRO Tony Ryan revealed: "He was with the physio on Sunday night. He is not going for a scan until Tuesday or Wednesday because the swelling was so high. The physio wasn't ruling anything in or out ... it's fingers crossed, hoping it won't be the cruciate."

Meanwhile, Sarsfields are hoping another 'battle of wounded knee' veteran, Dermot Earley, will be able to resume his playing career in the new year.

The two-time former All Star has been dogged by cruciate trouble in recent years and hasn't played since Kildare's championship run ended in early August, following further minor knee surgery.

He didn't feature during last Sunday's defeat to Ballymun, despite being listed among an extended 35-man panel. "Dermot is back doing light training. We're hoping that next year we'll get a year out of him with Sarsfields, whatever about Kildare," said Ryan.


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