GAA realised Friday was too early and too late to cancel games
Allianz League fixtures to be played next weekend, hurling league final pushed back
There was a nationwide consensus on postponing the two programmes of Allianz league matches due to the weather conditions. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
The GAA effectively ran out of time in its original intention to delay a call on the weekend’s fixtures until Friday. At lunchtime on Thursday, the announcement was made to postpone the whole schedule of league matches, football and hurling.
It became increasingly clear that Friday was going to be both too early and too late to make the decision in that the snow wouldn’t have cleared and yet counties would have to make arrangements for their fixtures.
Both programmes have been re-fixed for the following weekend, 10th and 11th March, originally a rest weekend for the football league and intended to be used for the Division One hurling quarter-finals.
That knockout round together with the subsequent semi-finals and final will move back a week to the weekend of 17th and 18th March, 24th and 25th March and Saturday, 31st March. Any exceptions to that will be announced next Monday.
Feargal McGill, the GAA’s director of games administration, outlined the reasons behind the decision to call off the fixtures a day earlier than planned.
“Making a call on the weekend matches would have to wait until Saturday morning because there’d be so much snow tomorrow [Friday] that it wouldn’t be possible until the thaw set in.
“Frankly, at that stage we’d have teams with transport and hotels booked and if we’d waited until then, yes there might have been a few games that could possibly be played but only possibly. Taking all of that into account and having worked on a contingency plan earlier in the week for how we’d play out the remainder of the league, we took the decision that it would be better to take the uncertainty out if it.”
He also said that the actual protocols of declaring matches playable would be close to impossible in the light of weather forecasts for Friday.
“A small but significant thing is the need to inspect pitches. You have to send referees or someone equally expert along to do those inspections. It’s fine saying we’ll make an assessment on Friday. If roads are impassable or travel otherwise a risk, you’re talking about Saturday, which as we’ve decided is leaving it very late.”
Dublin had decided not to proceed with a match programme for the scheduled Saturday night Division One fixture with Kerry in Croke Park on the basis that the double bill (the counties’ women footballers were also due to be in action) would have to be called off – the county was under pressure to decide on the order, as the printers needed to commence work earlier than usual given the weather conditions due on Thursday afternoon.
That fixture would have had the advantage that the surface would have been playable given the undersoil heating in the stadium but all of the other considerations concerning the safety of spectators approaching the ground. In fact, according to McGill it had been one of the earlier matches called off.
“We had the pre-event meeting this morning, which would have included gardaí and safety services, ourselves and the stadium personnel. The broad consensus was that it was as well to call it now.”
Otherwise, there was a nationwide consensus on postponing the two programmes of league matches.
“In terms of the other games we spoke to every single other county this morning to get a situation report and they all said that, yeah, discretion is the better course of action here.”
The radical fixtures revamp that the GAA calendar has undergone has created additional pressures at this time of the year even if the football league is largely unaffected. To that extent the current weather is particularly unwelcome but McGill says that there is a silver lining to the snow clouds.
“There’s no doubt that we need a good weekend next week but we’ll review it on a game by game basis. In some ways, in terms of the new fixtures calendar the weather – and I’m not saying that this is welcome – has stress tested it and that’s no bad thing.”
The hurling league will have to be pushed back by a week into the same weekend as the football final but according to McGill that possibility was always there once the original schedules had been announced.
“Although it wasn’t an official catch-up weekend, we felt that once we’d broached the principle of the [hurling] league final on a Saturday night – if we were to lose a weekend of hurling fixtures there’d be no panic in some ways because we knew that it would be possible to stage the Division One hurling final on the same weekend as the Division One football final.”
One proviso in respect of that possibility was that in the event of a Kilkenny-Tipperary final, which as part of a home-and-away arrangement would be scheduled for Nowlan Park, which doesn’t have floodlights, was that it be played on a Sunday.
McGill said that plans had been made should that situation arise and depending on the counties in the football final. One of the options being considered was to stage the hurling decider on a Saturday afternoon.
All women’s football league fixtures have also been deferred. Counties involved in Divisions Three and Four will play their postponed matches on the weekend of the 17th and 18th March and those involved in Divisions One and Two will play their games on the weekend of the 7th and 8th April.
Sunday’s All-Ireland club camogie senior and intermediate finals, scheduled for Croke Park, have also been called off. Details of the re-fixtures will be announced next week.