New Sigerson, Fitzgibbon dates as early-season schedule takes shape
A new-look early-season schedule is taking shape with a January conclusion to the All-Ireland club finals and the Sigerson Cup.
The primary third-level football competition is provisionally fixed to conclude on Wednesday, January 29, three days after the first round of the Allianz football and hurling leagues.
Next year's competition will have no back door to help streamline it better and cause less conflict for their inter-county players.
It is scheduled to start on the weekend of January 11/12, continue with quarter-finals on the following weekend and feature semi-finals and a final on the last two Wednesdays of the month.
The organisers hope that the rescheduling will mean all their inter-county players will be available, as the clash with league games has been avoided and the February load has been alleviated.
It will, however, mean clashes with pre-season competitions in the four provinces, though the higher education committee chairman Michael Hyland expressed the hope that with the compromise they would be made available for games with their colleges.
"We have been under pressure because the competition has overlapped with the league but next year it's straight knock-out so a lot of the teams will be out before the league starts," Hyland said.
"It is a change but we'd hope that this eases some of the pressure on our third-level players who have choices to make at a busy time."
The All-Ireland senior club semi-finals have been provisionally pencilled in for January 4/5 with the finals on January 18/19, a week before the start of the leagues.
The U-20 competitions will get under way on the weekend of February 8/9, concluding on March 21/22.
The Fitzgibbon Cup will have a later conclusion, provisionally February 12, because the conflict is not considered as acute.
Meanwhile, Leinster GAA chairman Jim Bolger has defended the early start to the O'Byrne Cup which will again commence on the second weekend of December.
The draws for the pre-season competition were made last week, with the first two rounds taking place prior to Christmas (December 7/8 and 14/15) and the third round in early January.
The Gaelic Players Association raised their concerns with Leinster GAA directly last year but the provincial body has stuck with the same schedule.
Bolger said the decision was taken last year after consultation with counties who, he said, would have been playing challenges at that time of year anyway.