Calendar year for club competitions shelved

Proposed new timing of championships to be delayed for year until further talks

GAA

plans for a calendar-year season to operate in its major competitions will not now happen next year. The idea that the format, which was initially to be conducted on a two-year trial basis, might be introduced in time for 2016 has been shelved with a broader review of the association’s championship structures is currently under way.

It is envisaged instead that once this review has taken place, the trial will proceed from 2017.

The calendar-year had proved a contentious proposal with many counties expressing reservations about the suggestion that the All-Ireland club championships be concluded in December of each year, shaving three months off the current schedule, which climaxes with the senior finals on St Patrick's Day.

Reservations about the feasibility of implementing the new schedule in 2016 have been growing in with director general Páraic Duffy saying in recent weeks that the timetable had become "questionable" and it is now understood that the calendar year will not now go ahead next year.

A sub-committee had been preparing a draft fixture list based on the idea and consultations with counties have been ongoing but the issue has been parked in the context of the current discussion on the future of the GAA championships.

The idea of aligning the GAA’s season with the calendar-year came originally from the second report of the Football Review Committee which was published in late 2013.

Among its attractions were forcing county championships to conclude earlier and also the elimination of the three-month delay between winning a provincial title and contesting an All-Ireland final.

Advocated support

In his annual report to this year’s congress Duffy advocated support for the proposal.

“The rationale for most of the FRC proposals was the creation of a more favourable environment for the playing of club games, particularly during the summer months.

“In this regard, its most significant proposal was that the All-Ireland club championships should be completed in the calendar year, with the intention of pressurising counties to complete their championships during the summer months so as to ensure entry for their clubs to the provincial competitions. Central Council accepted the proposal in principle for both football and hurling, and established a work group to examine how the FRC proposal could best be implemented.”

That work group reported earlier this year and its findings are still under consideration. As the proposal is for a two-year trial, Central Council have the final say in accepting or rejecting the proposal.

The calendar-year has divided opinion within the GAA’s provinces. Ulster and Connacht are broadly sympathetic to the idea but the Leinster and Munster are opposed.

Among the issues for the latter two are the considerably larger profile of dual counties within those provinces and the consequent strain of running off the club championships in football and hurling and in Leinster’s case the size of the province with its 12 counties.

Another matter causing a lot of disquiet among the counties is the abandoning of what has become the traditional St Patrick's Day holding of the club finals in Croke Park. The national holiday has for the past 90 years, been the date for firstly the Railway Cup finals and in the past 25 years the club finals.

There has been resistance to the idea that this date should be lost to the Gaelic games calendar. Deliberations on this matter are continuing but other debates will be occupying the attention of Central Council delegates in three week’s time.

Current format

After last month’s Central Council meeting, counties were written to earlier this month pointing out that under rule, the hurling championship format was established until 2016 and that its future thereafter as well as the national league’s would be discussed at next month’s Central Council meeting.

Counties were also asked to submit ideas in relation to the football championship although that is not required by the Official Guide but concerns with the current format had been expressed at May’s Central Council meeting and it was decided, as announced by GAA president Aogán Ó Fearghail earlier this month, to canvass views within the counties.

Deadline for these submissions is next week in order that they can be circulated in advance of the next Central Council meeting on 18th July.