Wicklow GAA defend role in St Patrick’s playing two games in 24 hours

County champions were forced to play in Leinster just a day after winning county final

St. Patrick’s players celebrate with the Wicklow SFC trophy. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

St. Patrick’s players celebrate with the Wicklow SFC trophy. Photo: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

Wicklow GAA have defended their handling of the situation which saw county champions St Patrick’s play two championship games in the space of 24 hours last weekend, saying that “our competition regulations do not provide for extra-time in a county final and we are constrained by Joule Park Aughrim not having floodlights to host a replay mid-week.”

After being forced to a replay in the county final by Rathnew, St Patrick’s won the second game on Saturday and then lost by 10 points to Offaly champions Rhode the following day with both matches played at Joule Park in Aughrim.

The Wicklow county board said that the replay could not have been played earlier because “there was a cross-over of dual players participating in both senior hurling and senior football county finals.”

It continued: “We made efforts to change the date of the Leinster Club Championship match with Rhode but no agreement could be reached.

“In a county where both hurling and football are treated equally, we do our best to plan our fixtures in a way that gives the dual club player the respect he deserves. It is however impossible to legislate for all possibilities and if we had allowed for the possibility that both county finals could have ended in draws we would have had to start and to finish our senior championships four weeks earlier.

“We had a very positive year on the fixtures front. A review of the county was conducted last autumn with fixtures identified by the clubs as a key priority for improvement. Leinster Council GAA managed the review with Iar-Uachtarán Liam Ó Néill along with Shane Flanagan taking charge of designing a new fixtures calendar with the support of Wicklow County Committee and with the involvement of all Wicklow GAA Clubs.

“The 2018 fixtures plan took account of the new inter-county calendar and ongoing local issues including a request that the County Leagues be finished before the Championships began. The fixtures plan was presented to the clubs at the end of January and approved for implementation. The new calendar saw the reformatting of the club leagues and championships. The championship draws also took place in January to give added certainty to the club player.

“A number of benefits accrued from the new fixtures programme: Inter-County players were available for practically all league games. The league started earlier and was completed in advance of the championship. The club senior championship was played off on round-robin basis with clubs guaranteed at least five games as opposed to two games in 2017. The county finalists got nine games. Contrary to reports, the unavailability of J1 Visa players did not hold up the championship). The championship commenced the second week in July.

“Wicklow GAA senior inter-county football team exited the All-Ireland championship on 9th June. In the time between that and the start of the club championship the concluding stages of the county league took place (as requested by the clubs). Other inter county competitions limited our opportunity to play the club championship any earlier. Our Under 20 football team exited the Leinster Championship on 16th June.

“From the start of the club championships in July football and hurling games took place week-on week-off despite the challenge faced by Wicklow as a dual code county. We also had to plan for the All-Ireland Under 21 B competition in July.

“Had the senior county football final ended in a victory for either of the participants the plan designed by the group led by Liam would have been an enormous success. The replay was unfortunate but must not take from what has been an enormously successful year for fixtures in Wicklow. Obviously Wicklow GAA will look to address the shortcomings highlighted this year.

“Looking back on the year we believe the club player had a better playing experience. We know we can still improve our competition structures. We had already planned a fixtures forum in the county on 6th November and further efforts will be made to fine tune our fixtures plan for 2019.”

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