What happened to April? The GAA fixtures mess explained

The GAA are relying on Roscommon, Cavan, Down and Laois to win this weekend

Cavan will need to beat Tipperary in Breffni Park this weekend to avoid the division’s league final being pushed back. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho

Cavan will need to beat Tipperary in Breffni Park this weekend to avoid the division’s league final being pushed back. Photograph: Andrew Paton/Inpho

 

The intention

Last October the GAA released its master fixture plan for the revamped football and hurling season (incorporating the Super8s and the new round-robin provincial hurling championships). In this the GAA left April as a club-only month. So from April 1st (yes April) when the Division One and Two football finals were initially fixed for, to the start of the All-Ireland championships on May 6th, there were no intercounty fixtures.

The intention was to sort out the absolute chaos that is the club calendar. And while it would do nothing to stop the club season splitting entirely in two, with no start date for the resumption of the second stage, it at least looked to clear up one half of the summer for club players.

The policing of this however was to be left to the individual county boards, which led to numerous county managers voicing their frustrations. Some counties who play in early May asked, how can we go into championship without our players for four of the previous five or six weeks? Others questioned – what if I release the players, but other county managers don’t or continue training away?

Many counties have refused to adjust their club fixture plans as a result.

The warning

Heavy rain caused a number of postponements in January, including the O’Byrne Cup, Dr McKenna Cup and Connacht FBD League finals, which were postponed until mid-February. The O’Byrne Cup final between Meath and Westmeath still hasn’t been played, with a date in May being discussed.

All this meant teams playing six weeks running, with the only other free weekend in football before April being March 10th/11th. Meath manager Andy McEntee summed it up perfectly; “We get another weekend like this, what does that do to the whole master fixture plan?”

First problem

And so the GAA’s worst fears were realised in the first weekend of March. Storm Emma met the Beast from the East and we had our worst snowfall in decades. This caused all of that weekend’s league fixtures to be postponed. The majority of the rescheduled matches were played on the free weekend of March 10/11th.

There were some TV disputes as the Kerry v Dublin league encounter was pushed back again from the Saturday to the Sunday, due to an anti-abortion rally and the Six Nations match between Ireland and Scotland. Eir Sports, though, had the rights and they showed the match, with TG4 having to re-jig their Sunday coverage further.

The Division Four football final, however, was pushed back to the weekend of April 7/8th. This was because the division was already out of sync to facilitate London’s requirements to play all of their fixtures at home (due to redevelopment work at Ruislip they played all of their matches away last year). To save the cost of flights on St Patrick’s weekend the match had already been fixed for the free weekend of March 10/11th. Therefore everything was pushed a week from then, so the final (originally set for March 31st) was to be played in April.

However, Carlow’s win over Antrim last weekend, and their unanticipated early promotion, means that a Laois win over Antrim this weekend will allow the final to return to it’s initial date.

Where we stand

If that wasn’t bad enough, another raft of fixtures were called of last weekend. And the All-Ireland club hurling final between Cuala and Na Piarsaigh was a draw.

Two of the Division One hurling quarter-finals were played on (public holiday) Monday. As for the other quarter-finals; Galway and Wexford is refixed for this Saturday, and Dublin v Tipperary will take place this Sunday in Croke Park as part of a double-header with the Dublin footballers’ final round meeting with Monaghan.

The club hurling final will be replayed in O’Moore Park, Portlaoise this Saturday at 5.30pm. That will form a double-header along with the hurling league Division 2A Final between Westmeath and Carlow.

The postponement of those two quarter-finals means the semi-finals, which were originally scheduled for this weekend, will now take place on Saturday March 31st. That pushes the final back from March 31st to Sunday April 8th.

All football league matches will go ahead as originally scheduled this Sunday with no date set for the postponed Division Two matches between Down and Tipperary, and Louth v Meath. The same is the case for the postponed Division Four matches between Laois and Antrim; Waterford and Leitrim; and Wicklow v Limerick.

The GAA says that these games will be played on Easter weekend (March 31st/Sunday April 1st) if they are required to determine the final positions for their respective leagues. This would push back those respective league finals to the following weekend.

This weekend

So if Laois beat Antrim there will be no further disruption to the Division Four final as Laois will have secured their promotion along with Carlow.

In Division Two if Roscommon beat Cork, and Cavan beat Tipperary, then both those teams will go into the league decider and up to the top tier. While if Down beat Meath then the latter would join the already relegated Louth.

Those results would mean there would be no need for last weekend’s Division Two and Four fixtures to be played. Otherwise they will, and April will be further eaten into.

GAA FIXTURES –

Saturday –

All Ireland senior club hurling final replay

Cuala (Dublin) v Na Piarsaigh (Limerick), O’Moore Park, 5.30pm

Division 1 hurling league quarter-final

Wexford v Galway, Innovate Wexford Park, 3pm

Division 2A hurling league final

Westmeath v Carlow, O’Moore Park, 3.30pm

Division 2A hurling league final relegation play-off

Armagh v Derry, Ballyshannon, 3pm

Division 3A hurling league final

Louth v Warwickshire, Trim, 1pm

Sunday

Division 1 football league

Dublin v Monaghan, Croke Park, 3pm

Donegal v Mayo, Ballybofey, 3pm

Kildare v Galway, Newbridge, 3pm

Tyrone v Kerry, Omagh, 3pm

Division 2 football league

Cavan v Tipperary, Kingspan Breffni, 3pm

Clare v Louth, Cusack Park, Ennis, 3pm

Meath v Down, Pairc Tailteann, Navan, 3pm

Roscommon v Cork, Dr Hyde Park, 3pm

Division 3 football league

Longford v Fermanagh, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 3pm

Sligo v Derry, Markievicz Park, 3pm

Westmeath v Offaly, TEG Cusack Park, 3pm

Wexford v Armagh, Innovate Wexford Park, 1pm

Division 4 football league

Carlow v Laois, Netwatch Cullen Park, 1pm

Limerick v Antrim, Newcastlewest, 1pm

London v Waterford, McGovern Park, Ruislip, 1pm

Leitrim v Wicklow, Carrick-on-Shannon, 1pm

Division 1 hurling league quarter-final

Dublin v Tipperary, Croke Park, 1pm

Division 3B hurling league final

Leitrim v Lancashire, Ballyconnell, 12pm

Saturday, March 31 st

Division 1 hurling league semi-finals

Kilkenny v Wexford/Galway, Venue TBC

Limerick v Dublin/Tipperary, Venue TBC

Saturday, March 31 or Sunday, April 1

**Division 2 football league final

TBC v TBC, Croke Park

E.T and winner on the day if required

Division 3 football league final

Armagh v TBC, Croke Park

**Division 4 football league final

Carlow v TBC, Croke Park

**If the finalists for the league finals are confirmed after Round 7 fixtures, these finals will go ahead on Easter week end, if not the outstanding games will take place on Easter week end, with the league finals on the 7 April.

Sunday, April 1

Division 1 football league final

Dublin v Galway, Croke Park, 4pm

Sunday, April 8

Division 1 hurling league final

TBC v TBC, Venue TBC

Fixtures to be confirmed

Division 2 football league

**Down v Tipperary, Pairc Esler, Newry

**Louth v Meath, Gaelic Grounds, Drogheda

Division 4 football league

**Laois v Antrim, O’Moore Park

Waterford v Leitrim, Ardmore

Wicklow v Limerick, Aughrim

**These games will be played on Easter week end if they are required to determine the final positions for their respective leagues, the CCCC will confirm remaining dates in due course.

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