Croker red faces as qualifier clash causes hasty reshuffle for ladies
THE GAA was left with egg on its face when the Ladies Gaelic Football Association (LGFA) were forced to rearrange the timing of two of their championship qualifiers to avoid a disastrous clash with the plum tie in the last round of the men's SFC qualifiers.
The problem came about when the GAA's Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) fixed the Donegal versus Laois men's game for 5.0 in Carrick-on-Shannon this Saturday.
They were clearly unaware that the LGFA had already pencilled in a double-header of their own senior qualifiers at the same venue. Donegal's women were down to play Westmeath in Pairc Sean Mac Diarmada at 2.30, followed by Clare versus Kildare at 4.15, an arrangement that had been made last week, with the fixtures posted online.
Given that 'inclusion' is now a byword in Croke Park and that GAA president Liam O'Neill is a strong advocate of supporting the women's associations alongside their own, it was an embarrassing error.
The LGFA immediately contacted Croke Park to point out the error of their ways and, after a full day's negotiations, it was eventually agreed that the women's games would be moved to 1.30 and 3.15, with the Donegal ladies now playing in the second game in order to facilitate their dual supporters.
The president of the LGFA Pat Quill was diplomatic last night but clearly unhappy.
"Obviously it's something that shouldn't have happened. We had made our arrangements since last week," he said.
The switch has definitely inconvenienced the LGFA and its sponsor and broadcaster TG4, who are preparing to showcase their new RefCam innovation in Carrick on Saturday.
Planning for the women's games was already at an advanced stage when they had to be brought forward and switched around.
"The GAA owns the grounds – we don't own them, we have to take what we get," Quill acknowledged.
"Obviously discussions went on and arrangements worked out but this is not what we had originally planned and not what our competing teams had planned for. We're happy enough in the end that our games are still going ahead, but Clare and Kildare are the ones most inconvenienced.
"We regret the inconvenience to the competing counties but in the circumstances, this is the best solution," he said. Liam O'Neill said they had "spent the day (working)" so that a clash wouldn't happen. "We facilitate women's football and camogie whenever possible and have done so several times this summer," he stressed.
Ironically he was quizzed about the clash while launching this year's M Donnelly All-Ireland Puc Fada Finals on Saturday week (August 3), which is now a joint competition that sees hurling and camogie stars compete alongside one another in the Cooley Mountains.
All-Ireland SFC Qualifiers RD 4
Croke Park: London v Cavan 3.0,
Cork v Galway 5.0, Tyrone v Meath 7.0.
Carrick-on-Shannon: Donegal v Laois, 5.0.