Tuesday 17 September 2019

'It is very, very unfair on Mayo' - Why James Horan's men drew the short straw with semi-final schedule

Mayo will be playing their seventh game in eight weeks when they face Dublin the All-Ireland semi-final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Mayo will be playing their seventh game in eight weeks when they face Dublin the All-Ireland semi-final. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Tony Considine

While Mayo and Donegal at least provided one splash of excitement over the closing weekend of the Super 8s in Castlebar, Group 2 was a different prospect altogether.

A paltry crowd of 2,356 paid into Páirc Uí Rinn for Cork and Roscommon’s battle to avoid last place, with Dublin and Tyrone both fielding second string teams in an Omagh game with the intensity of a glorified challenge match.

But as the Sunday World’s John Brennan pointed out on this week’s The Throw-In, Independent.ie’s GAA podcast in association with Bord Gais Energy, the fact that the new format has been trialled within the constraints of a shortened inter-county season is also causing problems, with Mayo’s short turnaround before next Saturday’s semi-final against Dublin a particular issue.

"This ridiculous carry on of telescoping the season to be all finished by the first week in September has to go. Whatever about the Super 8s going after three years, this experiment of finishing the GAA inter-county season on the first Sunday in September has to be scrapped," Brennan said.

"At the least, it has to be moved back to where it used to be. Or maybe to the first Sunday in October. You can’t blame Mickey Harte or Jim Gavin for what they did. But it is very, very unfair on Mayo. They’re playing their seventh game in eight weeks against an opponent who were basically able to rest their first team in Omagh.

"The situation would have been the same for Tyrone except circumstances fell nicely for them. They’re also playing their seventh game in eight weeks but they didn’t put out their ‘A’ team in Omagh so it won’t bother them.

"It will bother Mayo. Now they’re coming to Croke Park, the biggest pitch in the country where ageing limbs and tired bodies are going to be exposed more than anywhere else."

The argument from those in favour of the truncated season is that it frees up time for the club county championships. However, having researched the recent club fixture lists, Brennan was adamant that point of view doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

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"Last weekend, there were 64 possible county championships that could have been played, 32 in football, 32 in hurling. You take about 12 to 16 out them to allow for county teams still alive or just knocked out where they couldn’t start their club championship, that still leaves you with 48," he explained.

"This weekend, only nine championships were played all over the country out of 48. Last week it was ten. Why are we shutting down our season in July and August for all these counties to play championships? They ain’t playing them.

"The evidence is they’re using the April one well. A far better idea for me is stretch out the April window. Don’t start the (Inter-county) Championship till around the third Sunday in May. And then play it properly. It is absolutely unfair on Mayo."

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