With some reluctance both Dublin and Clare have accepted the offer of a play-off to determine which team will progress to the All-Ireland camogie quarter-final – even though this demands the winners must play two games in three days.
After refusing to accept the Camogie Association’s ruling that a coin toss must determine which of them would meet Wexford in that quarter-final, both Dublin and Clare effectively withdrew from the competition on Wednesday morning. With that it seemed the entire competition was descending into a complete mess.
Later in the day, however, after an emergency meeting of the Central Council of the Camogie Association, came the offer a play-off, set for Saturday afternoon at Semple Stadium (2pm), with the winners then playing Wexford in the quarter-final rescheduled for the Bank Holiday Monday afternoon (with the time and venue to be confirmed).
So, while the 48-hour turnaround is far from ideal, Dublin and Clare at least feel vindicated by their original stance. Dublin camogie manager Shane O’Brien admitted that the scheduling of the two games in three days “is far from ideal”, and yet also felt “hugely relieved” that his team were at least being given the chance to decide the matter on the field of play, as was always their original hope and intention.
Extra-time will be played in the event of Saturday’s play-off ending in a draw, and extra-time will also apply, if needed, on the Bank Holiday Monday – which could make for an extremely demanding schedule for either Dublin or Clare, depending on who wins on Saturday.
Still, having taken the stance that a coin toss was not acceptable, it was a victory of sorts for both Dublin and Clare.
O’Brien also spoke about his satisfaction that his team can now prove themselves on the field, even if the schedule facing the winners is so tough.
“Yeah, and it is far from ideal,” O’Brien told FM104 of the schedule, “although at this present moment I’d rather not go down that route. It’s not an ideal situation. We can only focus on Saturday’s game, and we’ll only worry about that two-day turnaround, if we do win on Saturday. It’s great to be able to focus on the game for a change, and we can park all the politics.
“Obviously it’s far from ideal preparation, and the players have been drained. But we are hugely relieved more than anything that common sense has prevailed in this saga, and the Camogie Association has taken our views and obviously the views of Clare on board. My hope now is that this would galvanise the whole group.”
The reason behind the mess in the first place was the Camogie Association’s insistence that the coin toss must apply after Clare and Dublin finished their qualifying group level on points, and having played out a 1-8 to 1-8 draw earlier in the campaign, the toss of a coin (rather than points difference or a play-off) would decide the fate of the two teams, according to a rule adopted last year.
Dublin and Clare then came out fighting – first appealing the coin toss, then withdrawing from it. And, in two separate statements, they outlined some of the reasons behind this, the Clare camogie board being particularly damning of the situation.
Their statement held that “the Camogie Association has demonstrated their utter contempt and disdain for every player and member of the Association. How can a governing sporting body justify by any logic the drawing of lots (coin toss) to determine progression in championship? The upset and mental anguish that has been forced upon players by the Association, will have deep and long lasting repercussions. Players are inconsolable and feel betrayed.”
Speaking on RTÉ radio, president of the Camogie Association Joan O’Flynn spoke about the reasons behind their eventual U-turn.
“Obviously decisions that are made in the boardroom play out differently on the pitch when the stakes are high in terms of All-Ireland titles and All-Ireland championships.”