Rugby and anti-abortion rally push Dublin Kerry clash to Sunday
Stormy April ahead as league fixtures postponed due to bad weather threaten to pile up
Dublin and Kerry in action in last April’s Allianz Football League Division 1 Final at Croke Park. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
The GAA’s master fixture list is already over-stretched as a result of Storm Emma, at least one fixture breaking into the April window previously reserved for club fixtures only.
The majority of the league matches, in football and hurling – all postponed last weekend due to the various “status red” snow warnings issued by Met Éireann – have been rescheduled for this weekend, including the Allianz Football League division one showdown between All-Ireland champions Dublin and old rivals Kerry.
However, although originally fixed for Croke Park last Saturday evening at 7pm, that game will now go ahead this Sunday with a 4pm throw-in. According to Feargal McGill, the GAA’s director of games administration, there were a number of considerations taken into account when re-fixing the game for the Sunday – including some indirect crossover with Ireland’s Six Nations rugby match against Scotland, which takes place at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, with a 2.15pm kick-off.
Also factored in was the Rally for Life march against the repeal of Eighth Amendment, which is scheduled to begin at 2pm on Saturday at Parnell Square in Dublin and expected to draw in excess of 30,000 people, which will also call on significant Garda resources over the weekend.
The 4pm start is in order to facilitate television coverage, the exact details of which will be announced in the coming days. Eir Sport had the original rights to cover the fifth-round game live on the Saturday evening, while TG4 had the rights to the Sunday games and is already scheduled to cover one of the earlier games live.
“It’s mainly due to Garda resources and being able to run that fixture,” said McGill, with regard to the Dublin-Kerry game fixed for the Sunday. “There is an anti-abortion march in Dublin on Saturday next, and there is the Ireland rugby match as well, both calling on Garda resources, and so the Garda asked us to put it on the Sunday.
“We always work very closely with them, obviously, when finalising fixtures. It’s not just the rugby. We’ve had games in Croke Park before that clashed with rugby and soccer internationals, but that’s not the only problem here. When you add another 30,000-40,000 people expected for an anti-abortion march, that’s when the problems arise.”
The details of Sunday’s live broadcasts are expected shortly, following further consultation with the TV rights holders. There is also the full fifth round of the hurling league, also postponed last weekend.
That April window, however, will be broken by the required rescheduling of games in division four of the Allianz Football League. Given all of London’s games last year were played away, due to the redevelopment work at Ruislip, all their games this season were fixed for home. Their sixth-round meeting with Laois, set for St Patrick’s Day weekend, was down for this weekend, originally the last free weekend in football, which therefore throws that division further out of sync, their division four final now put back a week until the weekend of April 7th and 8th.
‘Out of sequence’
“There was a provision there already,” said McGill. “London were already playing out of sequence, next weekend. And that was because of the St Patrick’s Day weekend, and, it being very expensive for Laois to travel to London on that weekend, it was agreed, before Christmas, that game could be played out of sequence. Because of the re-fixtures that does now knock the rest of games out of sequence.
“It does mean the Division Four final moves into the first weekend in April, but we knew that last week when the games were first postponed.”
This does, however, break further into that April window previously reserved for club fixtures only. McGill again reiterated that while Storm Emma and the snowy weather were particularly unwelcome, given their tight scheduling of this year’s revised master fixture list, it has at least “stress-tested” the matter.
“Absolutely, and of course we know there is only a limited amount of time that we have left to play with. But if any more issues arise with fixtures we can only deal with that when it happens.”
And they may not be out of the woods just yet. Present indications suggest it will turn milder over the weekend, while staying unsettled with outbreaks of rain and strong winds, and, given the enduring amount of melting snow and surface water, it’s not yet clear whether all venues will be deemed playable.
Finally, the O’Byrne Cup final between Westmeath and Meath, twice postponed already, was set also for this Sunday, March 11th; that final is now likely to be postponed indefinitely.
All of the women’s football league fixtures had also been deferred from last weekend: counties involved in divisions three and four will play their postponed matches on the weekend of March 17th and 18th, and those involved in divisions one and two will play their games on the weekend of April 7th and 8th.
Alliance Football League Division Four will be completed as follows:
March 18th – Round 6: Antrim v Carlow ; Waterford v Leitrim; Wicklow v Limerick.;
March 25th – Round 7: Carlow v Laois; Leitrim v Wicklow; Limerick v Antrim; London v Waterford;
March 31st/April 1st (outstanding games from Round 5): Laois v Antrim, London v Leitrim
April 7th/8th : Division 4 Football League Final