Provincial finals still in balance as clubs face anxious wait for thaw
DOUBTS still remain about the AIB provincial club finals going ahead after fresh falls of snow in Ulster yesterday and some lethal road conditions elsewhere.
Ulster Council are adamant that, weather permitting, their three finals -- which have been postponed twice at this stage -- will go ahead on Sunday.
Munster Council were similarly hopeful, saying it is "all systems go" for their three finals next Sunday, though that is also dependent on the weather.
Leinster Council, who had to postpone five club finals last weekend -- including the senior football and hurling deciders -- have deferred making a decision on whether to go ahead next weekend until later today. A thaw is forecast in the next 48 hours and officials will be guided not only by the state of pitches but by road safety concerns for travelling supporters.
All three provinces have already indicated that if their games don't go ahead this weekend they are unlikely to force teams to play on December 18 and would probably defer them to the New Year.
By coincidence, all of the provincial secretaries are due to meet today to finalise the co-ordinating of their 2011 calendars, but this year's finals are not part of that agenda and, in any event, they are unlikely to make a unilateral decision on them.
Croke Park's Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) is also due to meet tomorrow. The CCCC does not have any input into provisional fixtures but it does make All-Ireland championship fixtures and is already going to have to defer the All-Ireland club SFC quarter-final between British champions Neasdon Gaels and the eventual winners of Ulster.
This was due to take place next Sunday but has to be put back to the New Year because of the delay in playing the Ulster SFC final between Naomh Conaill and Crossmaglen.
The Arctic conditions have meant that Naomh Conaill boss Cathal Corey has not even seen his players in over a week, never mind train them. His problems are compounded because he lives an hour and a half away from the Glenties club, between Cookstown and Omagh.
Yet he said he understood the dilemma facing administrators.
"It's bad enough for me and I only have one team to keep happy. Ulster Council are dealing with a lot more teams than us and, on top of that, they're trying to organise referees, umpires, stewards and pitches so I can sympathise with their difficulties," said Corey.
"But it's wildly frustrating and the delay is taking the edge off the players' enthusiasm, you can feel that. Two Sundays ago we were due to take part in the biggest day in our club's history, then it was a case of 'will we, won't we' last week and all the delays have taken a little from the occasion."
Yet Corey said he would not advocate running the competition at another time of the year.
"Apart from the Coalisland game, when we got hit by fog, all our other Ulster games were played in virtually perfect conditions. If we could just have got another one or two days to finish it out it would have been ideal," he said.
Like most finalists his players have not been able to do any meaningful training in the past week and his only contact with them has been by phone.
"I know they've been down at the gym at the football field trying to do a bit but gym-work is not much preparation for a big football match," he said. "A few of the lads went down today to try and clear the road into the club because, like here, it was snowing heavily again."