The football schedule has a free weekend on March 10 and 11 to complete any fifth round matches that may not be played this weekend.
However, hurling isn’t as fortunate because of a Central Council decision at the end of last year to retain the Division 1 quarter-finals, which are set to take place on March 10 and 11. The Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) recommended they be discontinued but counties voted otherwise.
With the semi-finals down for decision the following weekend on Sunday, March 18, the final arranged for Saturday, March 24 and the concluding round matches taking place this weekend, there would appear to be little or no wiggle room.
There is also the difficulty posed by the likelihood that all of the final round hurling games will have to take place at the same time for the sake of fairness as quarter-final and relegation play-off spots are to be decided.
For example, GAA director of games administration and player welfare Feargal McGill, who also acts as a CCCC secretary, said no decision on the fate of this weekend’s fixtures will be made until Friday, while there are no plans to organise games for midweek to alleviate any potential backlog or venue changes.
While not confirming the Division 1 hurling final would be pushed back to Saturday, March 31, the same date as the Division 3 and 4 football deciders and a day prior to the Division 1 and 2 finals, McGill stated the CCCC didn’t envisage the hurling league programme extending into April.
“We have a contingency plan for all the games to be played, simple as that,” he said. “We will release the details when we need to but the GAA won’t be making any calls until Friday at the earliest. It doesn’t involve changes of venues and it doesn’t involve impacting on April either.”
In revealing the 2018 master fixtures calendar, McGill explained the league hurling final would be played under lights on March 24 unless it was a Kilkenny-Tipperary pairing in which case it would take place on Sunday, March 25 as Kilkenny are due a home league knock-out game by Tipperary and Nowlan Park doesn’t have floodlights.
Kilkenny and Tipperary know avoiding defeats at home to Wexford and Cork respectively will secure their quarter-final spots.