Saturday 18 November 2017

Leinster fears for O'Byrne Cup as cold bites

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The prospect of some of the provincial subsidiary competitions being shelved altogether if another weekend's action is lost to the weather has not been ruled out by one of the four secretaries.

Leinster's Michael Delaney said he couldn't predict if his own body's O'Byrne Cup could be played if the freezing conditions were to rob them of another weekend.

His comments came as the start of the competitive GAA season was ground to a shuddering halt yesterday when three more provincial councils were forced to shelve their programme of games this weekend.

The Leinster, Munster and Ulster Councils followed the lead of the Connacht Council, who on Wednesday pulled the plug on this weekend's FBD League programme.

Leinster ran a pen through their eight-match O'Byrne Cup programme, which was to get under way with Laois and DIT meeting in Graiguecullen tomorrow night. The other seven games were fixed for Sunday (2.0) but all have now been moved on by one week.


Delaney says they will be guided by the counties and whether or not they will want the competition to press ahead if there is another round of cancellations.

"The longer it goes on the less chance we have, obviously," Delaney said. "Right now you just couldn't predict. If it gets up and running on Saturday and Sunday week it will be completed but if not well then there would be question marks.

"Some counties with college-tied players may want all their players together once the league starts."

The first-round matches in the 2010 Dr McKenna Cup have also been postponed. The competition was due to get under way tomorrow evening with the clash of Monaghan and UUJ (5.0), before Tyrone hosted Cavan in Omagh at 7.0.

There were four other matches scheduled for Sunday -- Armagh and Fermanagh at the Athletic Grounds, Donegal and St Mary's in Ballybofey, Derry and Down at Celtic Park and Antrim and Queen's University at Casement Park -- but all have gone by the wayside.

A Council spokesperson said the decision centred on the prevailing weather conditions and the forecast for the weekend.

"The safety of our players and fans must be paramount in this situation. We are determined that people will not be unduly inconvenienced and that's why we took a decision early in relation to our programme," the spokesperson said.

It is expected that the postponed games will be re-fixed as floodlit fixtures on Wednesday, January 13, but these are also likely to fall victim to the weather. There is already a round of floodlit games scheduled for Wednesday, January 20.

The Munster Council have ambitiously re-fixed their trio of McGrath Cup games for Thursday night of next week using floodlights at Dr Morris Park in Tipperary, Austin Stack Park in Tralee and the Gaelic Grounds in Limerick to get Tipperary/UL, Kerry/IT Tralee and Limerick/Waterford IT all played.

However, given the weekend forecast and how a thaw in the current freezing conditions is not predicted for at least another week, they may be re-fixing for a third time, having lost these games to the weather last weekend.

Munster Council are still hoping that quarter-finals can take place on Sunday week with semi-finals and finals being wrapped up prior to the commencement of the National Football League on February 6/7.

The rescheduling is not the crisis it once would have been because of the availability of some many floodlit venues, which will allow these competitions to be completed.

But with the freezing conditions set to continue, all four provincial councils are likely to lose more weekends between now and the end of the month.

The AIB All-Ireland JFC quarter-final between Dunedin Connollys (Scotland) and Emyvale, which was due to be played in Newry on Sunday next, has also gone by the wayside, as has the AIB All-Ireland JHC quarter-final between Blacks and Whites (Kilkenny) and John Mitchells (Warwickshire) at Nowlan Park.

The weather has exacerbated problems for new managers in particular, who have been banned from playing meaningful challenge games in November and December and getting to see new players.

Down's James McCartan, one of just six new inter-county Gaelic football managers, hit out at the ban yesterday and how it left him in a predicament.

"It is all very much loaded against us," McCartan said. "Right now, we are just trying to get as many games as possible. Even if we are due to play a McKenna Cup game on a Sunday, we would be hoping to play a friendly on the Wednesday."

He continued: "It's unfair to judge guys on one McKenna Cup game. We are trying to see them in the McKenna Cup and a few friendlies as well, but the weather is making that all very difficult."

McCartan added that he would have no intention of playing or using established players in November or December even if he had a choice.

Irish Independent

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