Wexford’s quarter-final game removed from schedule
Wexford Senior hurling manager Davy Fitzgerald has hit out at the manner in which Croke Park has decided to complete the Allianz League.
The Division 1 quarter-finals have been scrapped, and the title now rests between Limerick and Clare as the winners of the A and B groupings respectively.
Prior to Friday's revised Munster championship draw, it was agreed that if the two counties were pitted together, the game would double up as the Allianz League final.
And that's exactly what happened, with their quarter-final clash on the weekend of October 24-25 also set to produce the outright winner of the GAA's second most important competition.
'It's an unusual way to complete the National Hurling League,' an annoyed Fitzgerald said.
'It's not the right way. The decision to have Limerick and Clare meet in a league final, once they were paired in the provincial championship, that is not a final.
'We set out at the start of the year with a National League schedule. This is not adhering to the schedule. We started the competition in a particular way and it should have been played out,' he added.
'I believe Croke Park were premature with their decision. They had ample time to finish out the league as it would have taken just three rounds of fixtures.
'We could have played mid-week with ample grounds floodlit for quarter-finals, semi-finals and final, just three rounds of fixtures.'
Wexford were due to have a home quarter-final against Galway when the pandemic brought a sudden halt to all GAA fixtures but, like other counties with the exception of Limerick and Clare, they have been excluded from the remainder of the league.
'We have those subsidiary competitions at the start of the year, both in Leinster and Munster, which could have been replaced with the final rounds of league games. Even early next year the league could have been completed,' Fitzgerald said.
'My own personal view is that the decision was very premature. There would have been no problem at finishing it up at the start of the year. Given the year we have had, it would have been ideal to start 2021 with the completion of the National Hurling League.'
Defending Leinster champions, Wexford, have been handed the draw from hell in the opening defence of their provincial title, with a semi-final clash against Galway.
'It's a very tough draw,' Fitzgerald agreed. 'Galway have been among the top teams over the past two to three years so it's a daunting fixture but one we will be ready for.
'It's a whole different scenario, playing a provincial semi-final at the end of October. Everything will be so different, grounds will be more difficult, we do not know what the attendance base will be, there is so much unknown about championship at this time of year.
'We will be back training September 14 and take it from there,' he added.
Fitzgerald is now looking forward to the Wexford club championship. 'The hurling will be played out over five to six weeks. We will also have the football championship. During the club championship I hope to bring the players in the odd time, for video analysis and a chat, but we are all looking forward to the club championship.
'A few months back few expected a championship, so they should not be complaining. They should be looking forward to the games.
'I want the clubs to give it a go. I won't be telling any player not to play anything. I want the players to go out and enjoy the championship, play hurling, play football, they won't have any hassle from me.
'It's up to the players. They will be making their own decisions and I'll be one hundred per cent happy with that. I will not be stopping them.
'It's an unusual year but I've been delighted with the reaction of clubs. They know the high fitness levels of players going back to them, they are taking this all on board.
'They are in tune with the players and their fitness levels, which is good, they will not be pushing them in the physical training.'
Looking at his squad, Fitzgerald said it's not a closed-door policy. 'My record shows that I always operated an open door policy even with Clare. I will be attending the club championship games, so if a player emerges he will get an opportunity. That has always been my policy.'
Wexford Senior footballers will resume playing activity with the completion of their two Division 4 league games against Limerick and Wicklow, where victories could see them push towards promotion.
Their first round championship game, with the competition on a straight knockout basis, is against Wicklow on Saturday, October 31, or Sunday, November 1. A victory would send them into a quarter-final against Meath on Saturday or Sunday, November 7-8.