Sport

Plan can help club v county fixtures impasse says Paraic Duffy

The GAA Director-General Paraic Duffy pictured at the Irish News inBelfast Pic Russell

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

May 12/13

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

May 26/27

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)

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