November best window for third-level - McGill
A November window to play the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups may be the only solution to avoid the deepening county v college conflict that has surfaced again this year, the GAA's head of games administration and player welfare Fergal McGill has suggested.
McGill's views come as the Sigerson semi-finals take place tonight with the final on Saturday, 24 hours before Monaghan and Kerry meet in their re-fixed Allianz Division 1 match in Inniskeen, Meath travel up to Cavan for their re-fixed Division 2 game and Sligo host Fermanagh in Division 3, three games that will potentially leave players with two games in 24 hours.
McGill has acknowledged that the county v college issue has become more prevalent but stressed that in the new landscape Dublin manager Jim Gavin's solution to play the third-level games earlier and start the leagues later wasn't feasible because of the April break from inter-county action.
A November Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cup month is something the organisers of third-level GAA are likely to resist on the basis that it would impact on their leagues and bring the high point of their calendar to a much earlier conclusion so it's an idea that hasn't been seriously considered in recent times and hasn't had much Croke Park support.
But McGill now feels it is the cleanest solution with conclusion for all championship competitions coming in advance of exams which start in December and go right through January for many third-level institutions.
"The solution that has been put in place for the moment wouldn't be a final solution at all but for now you are looking at the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups being played more towards weekends with the finals being on the rest (inter-county) weekend for either code this month," said McGill.
"The solution, in my opinion, is to play both competitions in November as they were back when they began first. December is exam time, so the key is to play them before the exams start.
"January doesn't solve any problems. January is the main exam time in third-level colleges. That's when the vast majority of third-level colleges sit them.
In recent weeks, rising Kerry star David Clifford played three games - two for Kerry, with a Sigerson Cup match against Queen's University in between that involved an 11-hour round trip to Belfast - in seven days, while Dublin's Brian Howard opted not to play for DIT in their quarter-final against IT Tralee which came between their Division 1 league games against Tyrone and Donegal last weekend.
Clare's Ciarán Russell played six games in 12 days between January 23 and February 4, two Sigerson Cup and two Fitzgibbon Cup games with University of Limerick with the first two rounds of the Allianz Division 2 football league against Cavan and Meath.
On Gavin's suggestion to defer the league start, McGill pointed out that a process to change the calendar had just been completed that involved consultation with counties and clubs who favoured a free April for club activity. A later start, he pointed out, would eat into that.
Third-level GAA activity has grown at such a pace that there are now 46 competing football institutes with 31 in hurling.
Meanwhile, McGill has explained the rationale behind the postponements of last weekend's four league matches in the northern half of the country.
While Derry's game with Offaly fell last Sunday, just 90 minutes or so before the 2.0 throw-in, Cavan v Meath in Kingspan Breffni Park and Sligo v Fermanagh in Markievicz Park went after 9.0am pitch inspections, while Monaghan and Kerry went by the wayside shortly after 11am.
McGill said judgement calls were made in each case, with all four undergoing 9am inspections.
He referenced the Roscommon-Down game in Dr Hyde Park which went ahead after an 11.30am inspection, having initially failed the first inspection.
"Looking at the weather and considering the quality of the pitch surface before the snow fell, the thinking was, 'If this melts the pitch underneath should be fine'. It did melt and by 11.30 the pitch was playable," he said.
Elsewhere, Tyrone's Tiernan McCann will miss the remainder of the football league campaign after a scan confirmed he sustained a cracked knee cap in Sunday's one-point win over Kildare. McCann will be out for up to two months, manager Mickey Harte confirmed.
Coming Soon: Independent.ie's new GAA newsletter. Sign up here