Saturday 20 January 2018

Farrell insists 'innovative' Friday night fixtures must not be shelved

Gaelic Players Association chief executive Dessie Farrell
Gaelic Players Association chief executive Dessie Farrell
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Gaelic Players Association (GPA) chief executive Dessie Farrell insists that Friday night championship games can still form a part of the calendar.

In his annual report last week, GAA director-general Paraic Duffy ruled out the possibility of further Friday night fixtures due to concerns raised by players.

Last June, Carlow's football qualifier with Laois was played on a Friday night in Dr Cullen Park and, despite some reservations from both panels, Farrell insists he is still open to the idea.

"I wouldn't rule it out entirely," he said. "One of the issues with the last experiment was that there was a lack of communication and engagement with the players, so whenever something like this is in the pipeline you need to get the two teams involved.

"If it becomes an issue for a group of players or one squad then that obviously needs to be addressed in some shape or form – or the idea needs to be knocked on the head.

MISTAKE

"Trying to say 'this is what we are doing' without talking to the players was a mistake. That has probably done the concept a little bit of damage in terms of the longer focus on this, but I wouldn't rule it out.

"In modern-day sport, we need to be open to being innovative and creative wherever we can get our games exposed in different ways."

However, an impasse remains, with the GAA asserting that they will not entertain any notion of compensating players.

"That would seem to be the stumbling block to this moving forward," added 1995 All-Ireland winner Farrell.

"Is there a way around that? Well, either the GAA take a different view of supporting players who may need time off work on a Friday night or players are willing to take the time off and not seek compensation, so it's fairly black and white from that perspective."

The attendance of 4,606 at that Carlow-Laois clash last year was almost double that of the corresponding fixture 12 months earlier, suggesting supporters are keen on the prospect.

However, GAA authorities have regularly run into difficulty in fixing matches on Fridays – a mooted league clash between Dublin and Mayo fell through two years ago.

Armagh and Down will meet in the Athletic Ground on Friday, February 7 in their NFL Division 2 match in what could be the last fixture on that day of the week before the idea is shelved.

Irish Independent

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