Inter-county-free April working well - McGill
Getting counties to make maximum use of the extra weekends left free of inter-county activity is the next major challenge facing fixtures-makers, according to GAA head of games administration Feargal McGill.
Designating April as club month, and bringing forward the All-Ireland finals by two weeks, has opened up more time, although there are still claims that the inter-county programme is smothering local activity.
"We would be happy with how having April as a month for club games only is going, but obviously it all depends on how well it's being used," said McGill.
A raft of structural adjustments, designed to leave more room for club activity, were introduced last year. A report by the Central Fixtures Analysts Committee (CFAC), chaired by Michael Martin (Wexford), showed that the changes created an average of four extra weekends per county for club activity.
A complicating factor is the wide variation in club formats applied across counties, especially for championships.
CFAC found that there were no fewer than nine different football championship systems in the 32 counties last year, ranging from straight knockout (5) to 'Round Robin' with six to eight teams (7).
"No one system suits every county but there are so many being used now that it's very hard to devise a proper schedule," said McGill.
While a move towards greater uniformity in formats has obvious advantages, CFAC noted in their report that "the concept of Central Council dictating a championship format to counties is unrealistic."
They found that 13 counties started championships in March/April last year, while two started in May.
Deferring There were no launches in May, while the rest started in July (9), August (6) and September (2). Many counties have started their championships this month, before deferring them until after the county teams have completed their All-Ireland programme. That leads to frustration among players who are often left without games in summer.
Club leagues continue to run in some counties but are regarded as unimportant in many counties. In a survey of clubs and players, CFAC found that, on a scale of 1 to 10, eight counties rated leagues between zero and five. Only eight described them as "extremely important".