Scheduling of the All-Ireland Club Championships

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Scheduling of the All-Ireland Club Championships

Postby GreatDayForTheParish » Mon Dec 08, 2008 2:53 pm

Upon Ballyhale Shamrocks victory against Birr in the Leinster Club Hurling Final on a very cold 30th November their manager, Maurice Alyward, expressed his desire to have such club games played during the height of summer. Such wishful thinking stems from his stated belief that the conditions at this time of year are not conducive towards superior quality GAA action and are not befitting of high profile club games. Now while to have the provincial club championships in full swing by May/June is thinking of the utopian variety, Mr Alywards musings did nonetheless get me thinking. And since it isn't often that happens, best to get striking while the iron is hot.

Putting it bluntly I believe that the current timing of the All-Ireland Club series is wrong. Ridiculous even. Stone mad as some would say. Presently, the All-Ireland semi finals are held in mid February with the All-Ireland final on St Patrick’s Day. As the provincial championships are concluded in all cases by the first/second week of December, this therefore means over a two month gap until the remaining clubs see action again at the All-Ireland semi-final stage. This defies logic. Where is the reason in coercing the clubs involved to train in the most deplorable of conditions for an additional two if not three months while also depriving each respective county panel of certain club players for the National Leagues? In addition to this a further demand is placed on the clubs and players involved as all will have to remain in training for upcoming club county championships regardless of whether All-Ireland glory is annexed. No time for any meaningful break is possible. For those not successful, this I would imagine to be especially difficult. It is an unpardonable and nonsensical situation.

The alternatives are many and simple. As already stated, under the current status quo all provincial championships are on average finished in both codes by the first/second week of December. To conclude the All-Ireland Club series for each club requires a mere two more games/weekends (semi final and final). Even under current scheduling these games could very easily be completed by the year’s end. With every pitch in the country by this stage having descended to a Battle of the Somme like surface, the venue of these contests could be Croke Park. It has an exemplary surface and by December has been unused for over two months.

Already I can hear the objections to the above proposal based mainly on the grounds of the proximity of these games to Christmas/New Year. Sure when would the shopping be done and the parties attended? Fair enough. In that case all the provincial championships should be pushed further back the calendar by two or three weeks thereby providing the required weekends to complete the All-Ireland series. ‘Wait there a minute’, I hear you cry, ‘sure the club championships would never be finished in time’. Under present archaic scheduling (at least in Offaly), no they would not. But when you consider that the 2008 Offaly Club SHC had a reprehensible 100 day gap between the first and second rounds, I think it’s fair to assume that with some inspiration and perhaps a little perspiration a suitable solution could be fashioned. Aforementioned inspiration would preferably come from higher authority (Provincial Council/Central Council) in that they would set an arbitrary start date for all provincial championships every year, say the last weekend in September/ first weekend in October. Furthermore, failure to complete ones county championship by said time should then result in automatic disqualification from that year’s provincial championship. I can’t imagine too many counties with this added ‘incentive’ would fail to get their houses in order and be unsuccessful in meeting this date. Those that do fall short would, I imagine, quickly learn their lesson. For example the Wexford club football champions failed to partake in this year’s Leinster Championship due to scheduling difficulties. I can guarantee you now that such a situation will not be repeated next year.

On a finishing note the notion of maintaining the present situation purely for tradition should not be entertained. Asides from it being a puerile defense at the best of times, the Club All-Irelands on St Patricks day have relatively little tradition. The competition in itself is only 38 years old; less than one third the total lifespan of the GAA while the custom of hosting the finals on St Patrick’s day is younger still.

Sense, plain and simple, should always prevail but unfortunately for the All-Ireland Club Championships it seems to be desperately deficient.
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