Monday 10 December 2018

Leinster to start GAA season five days after Christmas


Joyce: "I have had a fantastic seven years with the senior team and enjoyed great success throughout that period.” Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Footballers in Leinster counties will begin the new GAA season just five days after Christmas and will have played three games by the end of the first week in January.

Tighter scheduling at inter-county level , which includes starting the Allianz Leagues on the last weekend in January next year, has prompted the earlier start for the Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup.

It's due to have its first round of games on Saturday, December 30, followed by the second and third rounds on January 3 and 7 respectively.

Pre-season competitions in the provinces usually start on the first weekend in January but it's understood that Leinster counties were keen to get under way in late December to have the O'Byrne Cup completed before the start of the league.

It leaves very little time for players to recover from the Christmas festivities ahead of a season where all competitions will start earlier than in previous years.

Meanwhile, the changing of the guard continues in Kilkenny after Kieran Joyce and Shane Prendergast announced their retirements.

Four-time All-Ireland senior winner Joyce, 30, played his last game for Kilkenny in the defeat by Wexford last June.

"I have had a fantastic seven years with the senior team and enjoyed great success throughout that period," he said in a resignation statement.

"I would like to thank Brian Cody and all his management team, the Kilkenny county board and all the coaches and mentors that have helped me from U-14 up to senior with Kilkenny."

Prendergast, son of former star Paddy, joined the panel in 2014. He made his senior championship debut against Wexford in 2015 and captained the county in the championship the following year.

Kilkenny will also be without Paul Murphy and Colin Fennelly for next year's league as both will be in the Lebanon on Army duty.

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