GAA congress to debate moving club finals to January

Playing off tournaments in a calendar year is not an option in the short term

Corofin’s Gary Sice and  Stephen Cronin of Nemo Rangers in action during the   All-Ireland Senior Football Club Championship Final at Croke Park on St St Patrick’s Day in 2018. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

Corofin’s Gary Sice and Stephen Cronin of Nemo Rangers in action during the All-Ireland Senior Football Club Championship Final at Croke Park on St St Patrick’s Day in 2018. Photograph: Gary Carr/Inpho

 

The GAA’s annual congress in Wexford will lift standing orders on Saturday morning to debate the report of its Central Fixtures Analysis Committee (CFAC). Its chief recommendation will be the bringing forward of the All-Ireland club finals to January from St Patrick’s Day.

The move, initially reported by The Irish Times last week, comes up short of previous proposals to conclude the club season in December, within the calendar year but would reduce the championship by at least six weeks.

There has been a rising level of dissatisfaction among clubs at the length of time taken to play off the senior club championships with provincial winners in November obliged to wait two months before they play the All-Ireland semi-finals.

It is believed that the CFAC considered the calendar-year option but after wide consultation with counties, it was decided that it would not be possible to impose the earlier deadline, certainly in the short term, without counties changing how their championships are organised or bringing the intercounty All-Ireland finals forwards by another two weeks.

One striking aspect of the report is the wide range of formats being operated in the various counties, with five county championships still opting for straight knock-out structures. But overall, the preference is for round-robins, involving group sizes from three to eight.

Among the other recommendations of the CFAC were to endorse a request from Central Council that the current experimental structures in the intercounty championships be retained until a comprehensive review is conducted once the evidence of the upcoming championship, the second year of the trial, has been collated.

It is also proposed that Central Council provide financial assistance for counties piloting cross-county club competitions during the early summer period when county players are generally unavailable.

Another proposal is that the scheduling of competitions for second- and third-level educational establishments be reviewed this year although the CFAC makes no recommendations pending consultations.

Reference is also made to two other championships, the under-20 football and a notional second-tier football competition. There were mixed views on the former, with some counties saying that the summer dates in what is a developmental grade, whose players don’t play senior intercounty while it is in progress, intrudes on the club season.

Were it moved forward to January, though, it would clash with the third-level competitions.

The mooted second-tier championship has caused concern among fixture makers in Division Three and Four counties (assumed to be the basis of any such championship) about the possible impact on their schedules.

The CFAC asked that any future discussion of this be “mindful” of the impact on club activities.

In the opening session of congress on Friday evening, congress heard a call from the Tyrone delegation for the release of the report of the Crowley inquiry into the killing of 23-year-old Aidan McAnespie in Aughnacloy by a British soldier, 30 years ago this week.

GAA president John Horan put the matter to delegates, who unanimously supported publication of the report.

In answer to a similar request a year ago, the Minister for Justice declined on the grounds that those who co-operated with Deputy Commissioner Eugene Crowley’s investigation did so, on the basis of confidentiality.

The statement from Tyrone encouraged “the Irish Government to explore all available editorial mechanisms, which will facilitate the early release of the fullest version of the Crowley report”.

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