Leinster defend early start to pre-season competitions
The Leinster Council have hit back at claims that they are being unfair to players by playing 18 pre-season tournament games early next month, pointing out that it was a decision taken some months ago after consultation with counties.
The Bord na Móna O'Byrne Cup (football), Walsh and Kehoe Cups (hurling) begin on the weekend after next and will have a second round on the following weekend.
Criticism has been levelled at the Leinster Council over the early start, but CEO Michael Reynolds said it was the express wish of counties that games be played in the first half of December to leave more free time after Christmas.
"This is what the counties decided, presumably after consulting with team managers and we went along with it," he said. Counties all over the country are already playing challenge games - many behind closed doors - so Reynolds believes it makes sense to start the pre-season competitions earlier than usual.
"One Leinster county played five challenge games - and they're the ones we know of - between November 15 and December 21 last year so it's not as if there isn't plenty of action going on at this time of year.
"We started our pre-season tournaments on the last weekend in December last year but the feedback from counties was that they would prefer to play earlier in the month and then return in January," said Reynolds.
Ten counties will play in the first round of the O'Byrne Cup on Saturday week; the second round will be played a week later, with the final round on January 5. Three counties will qualify for the semi-finals, where they will be joined by Dublin, who were given a bye through the group stages. The final will be on January 18/19, a week before the start of the Allianz Leagues.
Galway, Kilkenny and Wexford have been given byes to the Walsh Cup semi-finals (January 13) and will be joined by the winners of a group featuring Dublin, Carlow, Laois and Offaly.