Tuesday 12 December 2017

Liam Dunne up in arms over Wexford fixture list

Wexford manager Liam Dunne is unhappy with the fixture list for next year’s league
Wexford manager Liam Dunne is unhappy with the fixture list for next year’s league
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

WHEN Wexford learned that they would have to travel to Limerick for a second successive season in next year's Allianz hurling League, they thought it was a misprint.

They were already surprised to discover that they would be away in three of their five games for the second year in a row, a disadvantage that has been amplified by having to again concede home advantage to Limerick, the reigning Munster champions in round 3 of the Division 1B programme on March 9.

"I was sure it was a genuine mistake which would be corrected," said Wexford chairman Diarmuid Devereux.

It's not that simple, however. If Limerick were to travel to Wexford, it would leave Donal O'Grady's men with only one home game, which obviously is not going to happen.

OVERHAUL

Bringing Limerick to Wexford would involve a complete overhaul of the fixtures list, which is already behind schedule because of the delay in deciding the format for next year's NHL.

Wexford's irritation is compounded by their experience on the home/away split since 2010. By the end of next season, Wexford will have played more away than home games in four of the previous five seasons.

The only exception was 2012, when they had three home games. It's a most unusual situation, one which annoys manager Liam Dunne.

"I don't understand how that can happen. How can any county have such a lop-sided run of home and away games? We were in 1B this year and played three games away.

"We're in 1B again next year, so why aren't we playing three games at home. We went to Limerick this year, so why aren't they fixed to come to us next year? It seems very simple, so where's the problem?" he said.

Issues like this arise in both football and hurling most years and are explained away by the GAA's fixture- makers on the basis of inconsistencies caused by an uneven number of games in various divisions, plus the impact of promotion/relegation. Also, new fixture cycles are launched from time to time.

However, it's easy to understand why Wexford are surprised to discover that despite being in 1B again this year, their home/away split is the same as last year, especially since it also went against them in two of the previous three years.

"Wexford should make a stand on this. Common sense says we should have more home than away games next year. So does fair play," said Dunne.

"Having more away than home games as often as we have had in recent years is not only a disadvantage on the pitch, it's also more costly. Does anyone think of that? Can we send a bill to Croke Park for the extra costs?"

Dunne believes that the fixture-makers should revisit the 2014 NHL programme immediately and tweak the programme so that Wexford have three home games.

"It can't be that hard to do. Does anyone look at the fixtures over the previous few years before drawing up the new list? If they did, they would clearly see that Wexford have a case this year," he said.

The 2014 1B draw sees Wexford away to Limerick and Cork, the two favourites for the one promotion slot. Wexford must also travel to Antrim, while they will be at home to Offaly and Laois.

Dunne also expressed disappointment at Central Council's decision to reject the proposal to divide Division 1 into two groups of seven next year. Each group would feature teams of varying standards, a format which Dunne believes would be of great benefit to counties trying to make the breakthrough.

"The GAA had a great opportunity to move forward on this one. We have 15 counties in the running for the Liam MacCarthy Cup, so two groups of seven in the league would have been ideal," he said.

"Instead, we're back with the system people were complaining about last year. Hurling people should be allowed decide what's good for the game. A lot of people I talked to thought the 'two sevens' idea for Division 1 would work very well, and I'd certainly agree with them."

Antrim also find themselves facing three away games for a second successive season. They, too, will be travelling to Limerick for the second year in a row. Cork, who were relegated from Division 1A this year, Offaly and Laois will have all three home games, while Limerick, Wexford and Antrim will have two each.

Irish Independent

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