Kickhams draft in extra medics as fixture 'madness' takes toll
DEFENDING Dublin SFC champions Ballymun Kickhams had to enlist extra medical help yesterday as they battle against the clock to get some major injuries cleared for tomorrow night's county final replay.
Dublin super-sub Dean Rock (knee), Mayo wing-back James Burke (hamstring) and wing-forward Kevin Leahy (ankle) were all forced off during Sunday's extra-time thriller with St Vincent's, and centre-back Karl Connolly also struggled badly with cramp.
The club drafted in extra physios last night to try to turn their injuries around in the brief 48-hour window available.
"Dean's knee blew up badly on Sunday night so how serious it is we don't know yet," said manager Paul Curran.
"Kevin Leahy came off with a twisted ankle so we're hoping we can strap that up and we're not sure either the extent of James Burke's hamstring. Hopefully they will all respond but it's going to be a case of waiting and hoping."
St Vincent's have a relatively clean bill of health but the same ridiculous playing schedule, and whoever wins tomorrow's big re-match faces another quick turnaround.
Dublin's final replay is taking place midweek because the county must produce a winner in time to play Westmeath champions St Loman's in the Leinster club championship on Sunday.
If Ballymun get through to start their provincial title defence they will have Jason Whelan back in time for that – his suspension elapses on Saturday night.
With the Dublin semi-finals having taken place on Bank Holiday Monday, it means that whoever emerges will have to play a fourth game in 13 days.
That has once again highlighted the lopsided schedules that some players are being asked to follow because of the club-versus-county conflict the GAA is yet to solve.
Dublin actually made a change to their championship format this year which meant there was one fewer round.
Yet they have still run into a back-log because, apart from the opening round, all subsequent championship action was suspended while the county was involved in its successful bid to win Sam Maguire.
Dublin managed to get Leinster to delay their provincial entry date last year when their clubs agreed to play the county final on the October Bank Holiday Monday. But that concession came with the proviso that it wouldn't happen again this year.
Leinster gave them no wriggle room this autumn, and the county's intermediate champions St Olaf's also found themselves with a similar three-day turnaround ahead of their Leinster participation.
County chairman Andy Kettle said they will carefully review things before finalising their 2014 club fixture schedule, to try to avoid such logjams.
"This is very unfortunate. Nobody wants to see players having this kind of schedule," he said.
"We had hoped to avoid problems by making our championship a straight knock-out this year with no back-door, but having a final replay has exacerbated things."
He said Dublin have particular problems because they are such a strong dual county at present.
He also pointed out that their own Competitions Control Committee has been unable to start planning next year's fixtures yet because the dates for the 2014 Hurling League have still not been decided and will not be until a meeting about its format on November 16.
Ballymun manager Curran said of the schedule: "It's madness, the GAA has got to find a way to find a bigger window for club games."
An All-Ireland club finalist with Thomas Davis in 1991, Curran recalls winning one of his county titles, in 1989, in early July.
"Nowadays it can be two or three months later," he said. "The introduction of the back-door system has complicated it and clubs, ourselves included, won't agree to playing big championship games without our county players.
"How to solve this is an argument for another day and needs to be looked at but, right now, we're just very relieved to get another chance.
"We would have played this replay any day this week that they asked us. Like Vincent's we've no choice but to get on with it and that's all we're focused on."