Tuesday 19 March 2019

Patrick’s Day club finals set for January switch

   

Director-general Tom Ryan speaking at the GAA Annual Congress. Photo: Sportsfile
Director-general Tom Ryan speaking at the GAA Annual Congress. Photo: Sportsfile

Martin Breheny and Michael Verney

This year's All-Ireland senior club finals will be the last played on St Patrick's Day if the recommendations of a specialist review committee are accepted.

The GAA's Central Fixtures Analysts Committee, chaired by Wexford's Micheál Martin are proposing that the finals in all grades be played in January.

The junior and intermediate finals were played in February up to now, with the senior finals providing the main GAA action on St Patrick's Day. If the senior finals are played in January, high-profile replacements will be found for March 17.

Completing the All-Ireland club championships in December has been mooted in recent years, but the committee have gone with the January option.

The feedback from the counties was that finishing the campaign in December would demand excessively tight county and provincial schedules and it was also feared that playing All-Ireland finals a few weeks before Christmas would damage the status they have.

The Fixtures' Committee, whose report will go before Congress in Wexford today, now plan to review the scheduling of second and third-level colleges competitions.

The latter is especially problematic due to county players facing severe workloads at this time of year, arising from the clash between the Allianz Leagues and Sigerson/Fitzgibbon Cups.

Last night's opening session of Congress drew a sharp rebuke for the political classes which used the controversy surrounding the Liam Miller tribute soccer game in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last year to call for conditions to be attached to future GAA stadium grant aid.

Several politicians - including some Government ministers - recommended that funding be only made available if the facilities were opened up to non-GAA sports.

Leinster Council vice-chairman Pat Teehan (Offaly) said the message should go out that the GAA would not tolerate interference in their affairs.

"We will not be dictated to. The GAA makes a huge contribution to Irish life, not just in sporting terms but also in boosting the economy through our games and many other activities.

"Rural Ireland is being decimated and in many places the GAA is the only entity keeping it together. Government funding cannot carry any conditions. The GAA deserves what it gets," he said.

Director-general Tom Ryan said that State investment in GAA facilities was merited in its own right.

"It would not be fair to assess us on the basis of the benefit that might accrue to others," Ryan said.

Meanwhile, Cork's hurlers have confirmed the appointment of All Black rugby legend Doug Howlett as 'high performance lead' for the coming season.

That's not the only rugby influence for the Rebels, however, with former Munster player Jonny Holland appointed as nutritionist to John Meyler's hurlers and Ronan McCarthy's footballers. McCarthy has also added Eddie Kirwan and Gary O'Halloran as selectors.

A jam-packed weekend of league action is highlighted by Kilkenny's visit to Semple Stadium to face Tipperary tomorrow (2.0) as rival bosses Liam Sheedy and Brian Cody lock horns for the first time since Sheedy's Premier ended the Cats' drive for five in 2010.

Cody welcomes former Hurler of the Year Richie Hogan back into his match-day squad and he is likely to see league action for the first time this year while Pádraig Walsh is named to start at midfield as the Kilkenny boss continues to shuffle his deck.

Both sides have one win from three games and victory will see the winner move closer to a quarter-final place with Sheedy parachuting Alan Flynn and Willie Connors back into his starting 15.

Irish Independent

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