Monday 10 December 2018

GAA forced to breach 'fixture-free' April plan

Division 4 league final delayed by week over weather chaos

Central Competitions Control Committee chairman George Cartwright, director of club player and games development Feargal McGill and director-general Paraic Duffy at the launch of the GAA’s 2018 Fixtures Master Plan, which has been thrown into disarray by the bad weather. Photo: Sportsfile
Central Competitions Control Committee chairman George Cartwright, director of club player and games development Feargal McGill and director-general Paraic Duffy at the launch of the GAA’s 2018 Fixtures Master Plan, which has been thrown into disarray by the bad weather. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The newly-constructed inter-county fixture-free month of April will have to be breached to accommodate the completion of the Allianz Division 4 because of an anomaly involving London.

It means that another league final will not now be played on its original date because of fixture congestion, following on from the Division 1 hurling league decider which the GAA's Central Competition Controls Committee gave notice of moving last week when the entire fixture programme for last weekend was cancelled.

The anomaly centres around London, who are already fixed to play Laois in Ruislip this weekend, originally a free weekend in football, instead of St Patrick's weekend which falls the following weekend.

London are playing all their Division 4 games at home this year to compensate for the loss of McGovern Park in Ruislip last year due to redevelopment.

But because of prohibitive costs in travelling to the British capital on that weekend, there was agreement to bring the visit of Laois forward by a week and with that set in stone, it ruled out last weekend's postponed games between Laois and Antrim and Leitrim (who were due to travel to London last weekend) and London being re-fixed for this weekend.

Instead, those round five games will now go ahead on the weekend of March 30/31, the original date for the Division 4 final which will now be played, provisionally, on April 7/8.

In the unlikely event that those outstanding games are 'dead-rubbers' when every other round is completed, the Division 4 final would revert to its original date.

Already CCCC had signalled that the Allianz Division 1 hurling final would switch from Saturday, March 24 to the following Saturday, March 31 as a consequence of the postponement of last weekend's final round of divisional fixtures. The hurling league had no room for manoeuvre since Central Council voted to re-introduce league quarter-finals after they had been dispensed with in the original fixtures plan.

The Division 3 football final is likely to remain fixed for Croke Park on its regular Saturday evening date as a stand-alone fixture now that the Division 4 final has been moved but there is a slight possibility of the hurling league final switching to Croke Park that evening.

The hurling league final was last played in Croke Park in 2011 but it has moved between Thurles, predominantly, Nowlan Park and the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick since.

As expected, the Dublin-Kerry league tie has shifted to Sunday (4pm) to avoid a clash with the Ireland-Scotland Six Nations rugby international and a 'Rally For Life' which is being staged in the city centre at the same time and would put pressure on Garda resources.

The pressure on the inter-county fixture list has come on the back of some of the worst winter weather in many years coming at the same time as a more compressed calendar is being road-tested for the first time.

Worst-hit

Counties in the worst-hit areas along the east coast have been unable to train because of the weather and were only planning to get back last night and tonight.

Wicklow football manager John Evans said his squad had not been out since their last league match against Laois nine days ago but we're hoping to return tonight.

"Even at that, we can't train where we normally train in Ballinakill because if you go off any of the main roads, you can't take the risk with young lads. We're hoping to get Bray or Rathnew as both are alongside the main road," he said. "Players have had to train in their own environment."

It was a similar story in Westmeath where training has been shelved since their six-point win over Sligo last Sunday week, while Meath and Kildare have also suffered restrictions.

Carlow footballers managed to get in a training session in Fenagh, where the county's centre of excellence is, last Tuesday night just as the weather started to deteriorate and they trained again on Sunday. But their hurlers have not been out since the weekend before last.

Wexford hurlers and footballers have also been restricted badly because of the volumes of snow that fell there over a three-day spell.

On the west coast, however, there have been greater windows of opportunity to maintain schedules.

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