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March date for hurling league final in pipeline

A draft of what the Allianz Hurling League calendar might look like is being circulated for consideration (Stock picture)
A draft of what the Allianz Hurling League calendar might look like is being circulated for consideration (Stock picture)
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

An Allianz Hurling League starting in January and concluding by the last weekend in March is under strong consideration as part of the new master fixtures plan designed to create a significant window for club fixtures through April and into early May.

In the wake of last weekend's Special Congress agreeing to provincial round robin championships, a draft of what the calendar might look like is being circulated for consideration with a hurling league final pencilled in for Sunday, March 25.

That is four weeks earlier than the 2017 final which was played on Sunday, April 23 and five weeks earlier than its traditional May Bank Holiday weekend date.

The earlier conclusion will lead to an earlier start with a double round of league football and hurling fixtures targeted for the last weekend in January, 27/28.

Four double league weekends are planned with divergence to allow for the conclusion of third-level competitions in February.

Traditionally, the hurling league has started on the third weekend in February though in recent years it has come forward by a week.

A potential development could see the Leinster football final take place on a Saturday evening to accommodate three provincial finals on the one weekend and create further space.

Under the plan the Munster hurling final would be the last of the provincial deciders to be played - on Sunday, July 1.

With the exception of that early Connacht game in New York the provincial championships would start on May 13 and be wrapped up seven weeks later.

If the plans gets approval it would create six free weekends for club activity in April and May, with the exception of the eight counties participating in football league finals on the weekend of April 1 and New York's Connacht championship match on the first weekend in May.

Some are questioning how much access clubs will have to their players during this window with championship fixtures coming so quick in May.

But weekend challenge matches will be prohibited and home venue for a league match will be lost for any county which engages in a weekend training camp.

Under the plan, hurling league quarter-finals have been scrapped due to the additional round robin matches.

The GAA hope to have a final draft in place at the end of the month that will radically overhaul the calendar.

Irish Independent

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