'County finals should be done by early October'
DESPITE county championship programmes finishing later every year, the group charged with overseeing fixture planning in the GAA has no power to force boards to complete their schedules earlier.
The National Fixtures Planning Committee (NFPC) has been working assiduously for the past few years to devise a schedule that suits the need of all players, but can only make recommendations.
Technically, provincial councils can intervene in counties' fixtures schedules but it rarely happens. Instead, it's left to county boards, many of whom are failing to run tight programmes.
Fifteen county finals are still to be played -- 17 took place last weekend and 11 a week earlier.
That means that of 64 senior county championships, only 21 were completed by the end of September. Many of those were hurling finals in Ulster counties where only a few clubs competed.
John Greene, chairman of the NFPC, said they recommend that counties should complete their championships by the first weekend in October to clear the way for provincial competitions.
"It can be hard for counties who reach All-Ireland finals to have their finals played by early October, but counties who were knocked out of the All-Ireland relatively early are often the worst offenders.
"Counties like Cork, who have a huge fixture programme, always seem to complete their championships in good time.
"There's no reason why the vast majority of counties can't finish their championship by early October -- but all we can is make recommendations," he said.
An NFPC survey last spring showed that players were deeply frustrated by the fixtures schedule.
"There is now strong evidence to suggest that bad fixture planning is having a very negative effect on players' lives, especially at club level. It's not sustainable if the association wishes to grow...
"There is a lot of dissatisfaction and frustration with club fixtures... it borders on disillusionment," noted the report on the survey.