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GAA master fixture list reveals four free weekends in April

Leinster and Munster hurling finals to take place on the one day in the 2018 season

The first round of the leagues at the end of January will include a Croke Park double header. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

The GAA presented the details of the 2018 master fixture list in Croke Park on Tuesday, and although following largely expected lines, it includes a few standout dates among what is arguably the most radical shake-up in the scheduling of games in the history of the Association.

That first round of the leagues on January 27th/28th will include 33 games in total, including a Croke Park double header of Dublin versus Kildare in football, and Dublin versus Offaly in hurling.

The hurling league final will be played under lights on that Saturday March 24th (unless the final pairing happens to be Kilkenny and Tipperary, whereby an arrangement between the counties means that game will be played in Nowlan Park on the Sunday).

The football league final (division one and two) will be played on Sunday April 1st, after which the next four weekends in April are set aside exclusively for club activity.

The championship will begin on May 6th, with seven championship games set for the weekend of May 12th/13th, and eight games the following weekend. The Connacht football final will take place on June 17th, the same day as the final round of round-robin games in the Munster hurling championship.

The Munster football final is down for Saturday June 23rd (7pm), the Ulster and Leinster football finals for June 24th, while both the Munster and Leinster hurling finals will take place on the same day, July 1st.

GAA director general Paraic Duffy described the changes to the master fixture list as a way “to better balance the club and county calendar in a very significant way”, in that it does make for a more condensed inter-county programme.

As expected, the All-Ireland hurling final is set for August 19th, and the football final for September 2nd - this pushed back a week due to the Papal visit to Ireland the previous week. In 2019 it will revert to the last Sunday in August.

This will also see most of the pre-season competitions starting on Sunday December 30th, such as the O’Byrne Cup football in Leinster, followed by two more games in the following week. These dates will be confirmed by the provincial councils in the coming weeks.