GAA left with just one free weekend in the calendar in August
CCCC to reconvene on Monday to see what league games will need to be played
Pope Francis: will be presiding at the Festival of Families in Croke Park in August. Photograph: Tony Gentile/Reuters
Confirmation that Pope Francis will make the first papal trip to Ireland in nearly 40 years has given the GAA another weekend to play around with on their master fixtures calendar – and at this rate they may well need it.
It was already agreed that, because of the papal visit, the All-Ireland football final would be put back a week to Sunday, September 2nd, having originally been earmarked for the Sunday, August 26th, after Congress 2017 voted to move both the hurling and football deciders to August.
The World Meeting of Families is taking place in Dublin from August 21st-26th, Pope Francis presiding at the closing ceremonies on the final two days: on Saturday, August 25th, he will take part in the Festival of Families in Croke Park, described as a “faith-based cultural concert”, before being chief celebrant at Holy Mass in the Phoenix Park on the Sunday.
The All-Ireland hurling final is still set for Sunday, August 19th, and even with Croke Park unavailable the following weekend, it does now leave that one ‘free’ date on the calendar.
Going into this weekend’s final round of the Allianz Football League, it’s still unclear what counties will be left ‘free’ the weekend after. Because of the second raft of refixtures due to the snow, the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) decided that the postponed games in Division Two and Division Four would only go ahead if they were needed to determine the final league standings – essentially to help protect the April window previously reserved to club fixtures only.
For now, the ‘final round’ goes ahead as scheduled. In Division Two, Cavan, Roscommon, Tipperary, Down and Meath are all affected in some way. If Cavan beat Tipperary, they will be promoted along with Roscommon, even if they lose to Cork.
Cavan have the head-to-head advantage from their second-round win over Tipperary; if Tipperary win, however, that will mean playing their postponed round against Down.
Here’s where things get complicated: if Roscommon and Cavan lose, and Down beat Meath, then Tipperary would have the perceived advantage of playing a team whose status would be already secure (Down). In recent years, all final round games are played concurrently, so that no team can gain any advantage on the other, perceived or otherwise, in terms of what exactly they needed to do or score to determined their final positions.
“The CCCC will meet on Monday, look at the situation then, and decide what games they may or may not still need to play,” said Feargal McGill, GAA director of games administration and player welfare.
“But it’s not written into rule that all final rounds of games needed to be played at the same time. Before, league placings were only decided on points difference, but after that the head-to-head was also added, should those two teams finish level on points, and that has lessened the need to play all the final round of games at the same time.
“And it can happen in any round of fixtures that certain teams know what they need to do, or have nothing to play for. It’s luck of the draw stuff. There may be some perception of unfairness because games are being rearranged, but there are games in round seven of Division One this weekend, where teams are playing other teams that mean nothing. And also Division Three.
“Again the CCCC will consider all of that on Monday, will look at of those games that are un-played, and talk with counties about how they might be played, and when. No one is assuming that those games won’t be played, because we really don’t know the situation. It’s not necessarily the case that those games will only be played if they absolutely have to be.”
The situation in Division Four is not so complicated.
Carlow are in the happy position of having secured promotion with one round remaining, and Laois will join them if they beat them on Sunday. If they lose, and Antrim beat Limerick, that would necessitate playing the final round of games.
McGill also confirmed the free-taking “shoot-out” will apply for the remained of the league knock-out phases, including both the football and hurling league finals, should the sides still be level after the two periods of extra-time.