The GAA's Director General has warned that inter-county managers could still prevent their players from lining out with their clubs in the now 'club friendly' month of April next year, writes Conor McKeon.
Speaking yesterday, at the unveiling of the GAA's master fixtures for 2018, a drastically re-jigged programme of games replete with new formats in both the senior football and hurling Championships, Duffy predicted that few counties would fix Championship matches in April, despite the fact that inter-county sides will be forbidden from even playing challenge matches in that month.
Duffy outlined how the "anger of club players and the constant frustration" over the lack of games in the summer months forced the GAA to give April back to the clubs and bring forward the dates of the All-Ireland finals, abandoning their traditional homes on the first and third Sundays of September.
"This issue for me became more and more the anger of club players and the constant frustration of clubs.
"A lot of this came from that.
Yesterday, Duffy, along with the Feargal McGill, the GAA Director of Club, Player & Games Administration and George Cartwright, Chairman of CCCC unveiled the plan, the first in a three-year cycle under the new structure.
The only inter-county matches that will take place in April of next year will be the Division 1 and 2 League finals, scheduled for April 1, while the All-Ireland football final will be the sole senior inter-county game in either code to be staged in September.
For all that, Duffy expressed his belief that he did not "expect counties will fix many Championship games in April," despite the four-to-six week gap between the end of the Allianz League and the beginning of the provincial Championships.
He pointed out that the number of counties who will have no involvement in the inter-county Football Championship after June will rise by eight to 21 next year, while the number who will be free to resume their club Championships from mid July will go up from 16 to 25.
"We'll have plenty of time in July, August and September to play off championships so I think they'll be mostly League fixtures (in April) anyway and leagues differ from county to county," Duffy outlined.
"In some counties leagues aren't all that important but in other counties they're very important because it's linked to championship status.
"The big thing is counties will still train but they can't play challenge matches at the weekend. So I can't imagine that counties will not fix… they will fix games at the weekends."
The significant changes to the calendar for 2018 are:
- Just two inter-county matches (Division 1 & 2) football final in April
- June one inter-county match (All-Ireland SFC final) in September
- Three rounds of All-Ireland SFC quarter-final round robin - or 'Super Eights' as they have been dubbed - to be played over four weekends.
- All-Ireland hurling semi-finals to be played on the same weekend (July 28th/29th)
- All-Ireland football semi-finals to be played on the same weekend (August 11th/12th)
- Hurling League final to be played on a Saturday night under lights.
- Munster football final to be played on a Saturday night
- Leinster and Munster hurling finals to be played on the same day (July 1st)
- No 'six day turnaround' for any team beaten in provincial final