Players get wish as Duffy switches off Friday night lights
THE prospect of further Friday night championship games has virtually diminished, despite the successful staging of Laois and Carlow in Dr Cullen Park at the end of last June when the attendance on the corresponding fixture, 12 months earlier, doubled to 4,606.
GAA director-general Paraic Duffy reveals in his annual report that the experiment is one that is "unlikely to be repeated" because of the compensation question and the mental and physical strain that it places on the preparations of players on what is a working day for most.
Duffy outlines that there is no scope for compensation to be paid for loss of earnings on match days.
He points out that, while Friday night has great appeal for supporters, it may not suit players, some of whom were particularly vocal after the Carlow v Laois game was fixed.
"The decision to play the game on a Friday night generated some controversy, with the GPA expressing reservations about the fixture and a number of players using Twitter to express their displeasure at the fixing of a championship game on a recognised working day," he said.
"The CCCC deserves credit for taking the initiative to make the fixture: as a local derby involving short distance travel, it was an ideal game to test support for Friday evening matches.
"The attendance - double that when the same counties met a year earlier - suggests that occasional Friday evening games would appeal to supporters.
But the issues raised by players are "valid" according to Duffy.
"Players have a valid point when they say that a full working day does not facilitate the mental and physical preparation necessary for a championship game, a consideration that is a sufficiently strong argument on its own to rule out a repeat of the experiment.
"Nor can there be any question of meeting requests to compensate players financially for loss of earnings on the day of a championship game: such compensation would be in breach of our amateur-status rules.
"If such compensation is seen as a pre-requisite for playing Friday evening matches, then the Laois v Carlow game was most definitely a 'once-off' experiment.
"It may be that some provision could be made for the occasional Friday evening league game between neighbouring counties, but, given the competitive nature of that competition, too, the restricted player-preparation time of such a fixture is equally a barrier in league fixtures."
The GAA have consistently met with difficulty in staging Friday night games. Two years ago Dublin and Mayo fell by the wayside when Friday night in Croke Park was mooted while Kildare have twice declined overtures to come to Croke Park on a Friday night to play Dublin because of the impact on their players and supporters.
An attempt to play Laois against Carlow on a Friday night in 2012 also failed to get off the ground.
Armagh and Down will play their second-round league match in the Athletic Grounds on Friday February 7, but it will possibly be the last game on this day for some time.