Friday 14 December 2018

GAA facing fixtures rethink: Decision to jam so much action into first three months undermined by bad weather

It’s difficult to see how a solution can be found without using at least two weekends in April to complete the league (stock picture)
It’s difficult to see how a solution can be found without using at least two weekends in April to complete the league (stock picture)
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

The GAA's decision to pack so much action into the first three months of the year may apply to this year only after running into difficulties with a number of competitions.

The Allianz hurling and football Leagues, plus three pre-season tournaments, have had schedules disrupted by bad weather and there will be further problems if the current icy snap continues into next weekend.

The hurling league final has been put back by a week to March 31, the day before the Division 1 and 2 football finals are played in Croke Park.

Leinster's Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup football final between Meath and Westmeath has already been postponed twice and faces a further delay, arising from the cancellation of this weekend's entire league fixtures programme.

Having been called off on January 21, it was re-fixed for February 18 but had to be cancelled because of Meath's Division 2 clash with Cavan, which had been called off because of bad weather over the previous weekend.

The O'Byrne Cup final was re-fixed for next weekend but will be ruled out again due to the postponement of this weekend's league games.

That leaves the weekend of March 31/April 1 as the first available slot and even that won't be available if Meath or Westmeath reach their divisional finals.

The FBD Connacht League and Ulster's McKenna Cup also ran off course, forcing the finals to be played three weeks later than planned.

The many disruptions - and there could be more to come - raises serious questions about the wisdom of jamming the two league competitions into a two-month slot in order to leave April free of all inter-county activity.

The hectic league schedule called for an earlier start and left little room for lost weekends. It also resulted in earlier starts to the pre-season competitions.

It has all backed up, underlining the risks of fixing so many games for January-February-March and will almost certainly lead to a reappraisal of next year's fixtures grid.

However, it's difficult to see how a solution can be found without using at least two weekends in April to complete the leagues.

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