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Waterford already feeling the effects of club fixtures backlog

County won’t have their football championship completed in time for Munster action

Jamie Barron: The Nire/Fourmilewater dual star, a candidate for hurler of the year, said: “It’s all a backlog of games being called off due to ourselves going so far in the championship.” Photograph: Ken Sutton/Inpho

After the relative calm of Saturday’s decision to give the hurling championship a radical revamp comes a reminder of the still stormy club fixtures issue and the battle to run them off on time. 

Waterford have already conceded defeat in the quest to get their club football championship completed in time for the Munster championship – a direct result of their extended run to this year’s All-Ireland hurling final. 

Instead, Waterford will focus on getting their club hurling championship run off by October 22nd, with the Tipperary champions awaiting the winners a week later in the Munster quarter-final (Oct 29th). Those Waterford quarter-finals are down for this weekend, clearly no room for further delay. 

Waterford were one of the counties to openly oppose the introduction of the new hurling championship structures, which were passed on a three-year trial basis at Saturday’s special congress after getting the necessary 62 per cent majority support of delegates (which would however have failed to reach the previous threshold of a two-thirds majority, it was lowered to 60 per cent at annual congress earlier this year.) 

This will increase the number of games in the Liam MacCarthy from 22 to 29 (excluding the 2017 four-team Leinster qualifier series), with Leinster and Munster now consisting of five-team groups and played on a round-robin basis; if the new two-tier championship is included the number of games rises to 45, again on a three-year trial basis. And that’s all on top of the new Super-8 football championship. 

Exactly how this will impact on club fixtures next year remains to be seen, even with the All-Ireland finals brought forward to August.

Waterford had already been given an extra week to complete both their football and hurling championship; in football, they were drawn away to the Cork champions on the first weekend of November, but given the number of dual clubs still involved in both competitions, it was decided to defer the football competition until after the end of the hurling championship. 

Kilrossanty, An Rinn, and Stradbally have already qualified for the semi-finals, with nine teams involved in a series of play-offs to determine the fourth slot, including The Nire/Fourmilewater, home to Waterford hurler Jamie Barron.  

“It’s all a backlog of games being called off due to ourselves going so far in the championship,” said Barron, one of the three candidates for 2017 hurler of the year – along with team-mate Kevin Moran and Joe Canning of Galway. 

Big disappointment

“Obviously it’s a big disappointment, if you did win a county, not to be able to play in Munster. But that’s just the hand we’re dealt now and I think they’re aiming to get the hurling played off so that the hurlers can at least compete in Munster. 

“I suppose it’s just not feasible to get the two of them played off now at this stage. I think a few years ago Stradbally had to play the day after against Nemo Rangers, which isn’t fair either on players. 

“When you’re putting in as much time as players are, you want to be able to play the things you should be allowed play. It’s probably hard on club players who haven’t played all summer.” 

Last November, Waterford football champions The Nire reached the Munster final, losing to Kerry and eventual All-Ireland champions Dr Crokes; Waterford also missed the Munster club football deadline in 2003 and 2008. 

Yet Barron – unlike Waterford County Board officials – did give his backing to the new hurling championship structure, which under the round-robin format, will guarantee four championship games in late May and early June. 

“I suppose every player wants to be playing games. This year, we went in the back door and we’d games every two or three weeks. It’s good to have a very close aim, whereas our wait from the league until the Cork game was 11 weeks or something, which means it’s hard to train at times for something so far away. You get lazy. 

“Week on week would be a good way to go about it and it would probably give more use to the panel as well. At times there’s a lot of lads training and they’re not getting much of a look in, but if we were playing week on week the panel would be brought into use a lot more and a lot of new players will get their chance.” 

It also emerged over the weekend that seven players from Wicklow dual club Éire Óg in Greystones have withdrawn their services from next year’s county panels after being forced to play two championship games within 24 hours of each other.

Wicklow footballers Stephen Kelly, Darren Hayden and Daniel Woods are among the seven players, an early blow to new Wicklow manager John Evans; Billy Cuddihy, son of county doctor Dr Brendan Cuddihy, is among those to withdraw from the county hurling panel for 2018. It saw Éire Óg play two games in 24 hours the weekend before last, losing the hurling semi-final to Glenealy, and also the football quarter-final replay to Baltinglass. 

Another example of the backlog is that three of the four Kilkenny hurling quarter-finals ended in a draw, and they will be replayed this weekend.