Plan can help club v county fixtures impasse says Paraic Duffy
GAA Director General Paraic Duffy reckons the 2018 Master Fixture Plan will go a long way to solving the club versus county fixture impasse.
The novel plan includes playing the Allianz hurling league final and Munster football decider under lights on Saturday evenings and setting aside all of April for club duty.
There are a number of firsts contained in the document which confirms August 19 for the All-Ireland hurling final and September 2 for the football showpiece.
The Leinster and Munster hurling finals will also be played on the same day, in early July, while two weeks have been clawed back from the League schedule which begins on January 27/28.
GAA enthusiasts may feel bombarded by games at times with four ‘double’ weekends of dual activity in the league.
And on the weekend of June 24, the Munster, Ulster and Leinster football championship finals will all be played.
But the overriding aim of the plan ‘was to ensure that as much of April as possible could be kept free for clubs’.
Just two inter-county games will go ahead in April, 2018; the National Football League Division One and Two finals on April 1.
That alone will be a remarkable break from the norm with 63 inter-county games organised by the GAA at central level in April, 2017.
“It just happens to be the end of a process which has been going on for several years,” said Duffy, who will step down from his role after in March.
“It’s nothing to do with the timing of me leaving.
“Look, it’s a three-year experiment. It could be in three years’ time that people say we don’t like the round-robin situation in hurling or we don’t like the quarter-finals being a round-robin in football.
“Or they might say they don’t like the Leinster and Munster hurling finals being on the same day, or the Munster football final on a Saturday. That’s fair enough, as long as there is a better way.”
There are any number of issues which could come under scrutiny in the coming weeks and months.
Hurling under lights, for example, still isn’t for everyone and traditionalists may frown on a national final being played on a Saturday evening. Wrapping up the hurling League by March 24, the date of that final, also means that all of the action will be played out on wet, heavy pitches.
Feargal McGill, the GAA’s director of Club, Player and Games Administration, noted that there is no such thing as a perfect science when it comes to the fixtures conundrum.
“This year, to be fair, we are going into the dark a bit with this schedule,” said McGill.
“I have no doubt in the course of the next 12 months there will be certain things that will work, and work very well, and things that we didn’t expect to work well which actually will.”
It remains to be seen how individual counties approach the new April window for club activity.
“I think you’ll find that not many counties will play club championship matches in April,” said Duffy.
“If you look at it another way, by the 15th of July there will be four teams left in the hurling championship.
“I think most teams will say that they’ll play their club championships after that.
“In football, by the 8th of July, there will be eight teams left so I think you’re going to see Championships being played in July, August and September.”
PROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP DATES FOR 2018
SUNDAY, May 6
Connacht SFC: Leitrim v New York
Connacht SFC: Sligo v London (Ruislip)
SATURDAY, May 12
Leinster SHC: Offaly v Galway
SUNDAY, May 13
Connacht SFC: Mayo v Galway
Ulster SFC: Donegal v Cavan
Leinster SHC: Dublin v Kilkenny
Leinster SFC: Laois v Wexford
Leinster SFC: Louth v Carlow
Leinster SFC: Offaly v Wicklow
SATURDAY, May 19
Ulster SFC: Fermanagh v Armagh
Munster SFC: Clare v Limerick
Munster SFC: Tipperary v Waterford
SUNDAY, May 20
Munster SHC: Cork v Clare
Munster SHC: Limerick v Tipperary
Ulster SFC: Tyrone v Monaghan
Leinster SHC: Kilkenny v Offaly
Leinster SHC: Wexford v Dublin
SATURDAY, May 26
Ulster SFC: Down v Antrim
Connacht SFC: Leitrim/NY v Roscommon
Leinster SHC: Offaly v Wexford
Leinster SFC: Laois/Wexford v Westmeath
Leinster SFC: Louth/Carlow v Kildare
Leinster SFC: Offaly/Wicklow v Dublin
Leinster SFC: Longford v Meath
SUNDAY, May 27
Munster SHC: Tipperary v Cork
Munster SHC: Clare v Waterford
Leinster SHC: Galway v Kilkenny
Ulster SFC: Donegal/Cavan v Derry
SATURDAY, June 2
Munster SFC: Clare/Limerick v Kerry
Munster SFC: Tipperary/Waterford v Cork
Munster SHC: Cork v Limerick
Leinster SHC: Wexford v Galway
SUNDAY, June 3
Munster SHC: Waterford v Tipperary
Leinster SHC: Dublin v Offaly
Connacht SFC: Mayo/Galway v Sligo/London
Ulster SFC: Fermanagh/Armagh v Tyrone/Monaghan
SATURDAY, June 9
Leinster SHC: Kilkenny v Wexford
Leinster SHC: Galway v Dublin
SUNDAY, June 10
Munster SHC: Limerick v Waterford
Munster SHC: Tipperary v Clare
Ulster SFC: Donegal/Cavan/Derry v Down/Antrim
Leinster SFC: Offaly/Wicklow/Dublin v Longford/Meath
Leinster SFC: Laois/Wexford/Westmeath v Louth/Carlow/Kildare
SUNDAY, June 17
4pm: Connacht Senior Football Championship final
Munster SHC: Clare v Limerick
Munster SHC: Waterford v Cork
SATURDAY, June 23
7pm: Munster SFC final
SUNDAY, June 24
2pm: Ulster SFC final
4pm: Leinster SFC final
SUNDAY, July 1
2pm: Munster SHC final
4pm: Leinster SHC final
KEY DATES FOR 2018
January 20/21: AIB Intermediate & Junior club football and hurling semi-finals
January 27/28: Allianz National Leagues begin
February 3: AIB All-Ireland Intermediate & Junior Club football finals
February 4: AIB All-Ireland Intermediate & Junior Club hurling finals
February 10: AIB Senior Club hurling semi-finals
February 17: AIB Senior Club Football semi-finals; Electric Ireland HEGAA Sigerson Cup final
February 24: Electric Ireland HEGAA Fitzgibbon Cup final
March 11: Allianz Hurling League Division One semi-finals; Allianz Hurling League 2A, 2B, 3A, 3B finals
March 17: AIB All-Ireland Senior Club football final; AIB All-Ireland Senior Club hurling final
March 24: Allianz Hurling League Division One final
March 25: Allianz Football League final round
March 31: Allianz Football League Division 3/4 finals
April 1: Allianz Football League Division 1/2 finals
May 5: Tier 2 Hurling Championship begins
May 12: Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard Cups begin
June 2/3: All-Ireland Senior Football qualifiers prelim. round (if required)
June 9: All-Ireland Senior Football qualifiers round one; Christy Ring & Nicky Rackard semi-finals
June 17: Connacht football final
June 23: Munster football final; All-Ireland senior football qualifiers round two; Ring, Rackard and Meagher finals
June 24: Ulster football final; Leinster football final
June 30: All-Ireland senior football qualifiers round three; Tier 2 hurling Championship relegation play-off
July 1: Munster Hurling final; Leinster Hurling final; Tier 2 Hurling Championship final
July 7/8: All-Ireland Senior Football Qualifiers round four; All-Ireland Hurling Championship preliminary quarter-finals
July 14/15: All-Ireland SFC quarter-final round robin (Croke Park); Eirgrid All-Ireland U20 Football semi-finals
July 15: All-Ireland SHC quarter-finals
July 21/22: All-Ireland SFC quarter-final round robin; All-Ireland Senior Hurling relegation play-off (if required)
July 28/29: All-Ireland MFC quarter-finals
July 28: All-Ireland SHC semi-final
July 29: All-Ireland SHC semi-final
August 4/5/6: All-Ireland SFC quarter-final round-robin; Eirgrid All-Ireland U20 Football final
August 11: All-Ireland SFC semi-final
August 12: All-Ireland SFC semi-final
August 19: All-Ireland SHC/MHC finals
August 25/26: Bord Gáis All-Ireland U21 Hurling final
September 2: All-Ireland SFC/MFC finals
September 8: All-Ireland SHC final replay (if needed)
September 9: All-Ireland camogie finals (TBC)
September 15: All-Ireland SFC final replay (if needed)
September 16: All-Ireland ladies football finals (TBC)