Ryan: GAA may have to start hurling league earlier

The GAA will have to look at starting the Allianz Hurling League before Christmas to avoid fixtures pile-ups like the one caused by last Sunday’s string of postponements, Waterford County Board chairman Paddy Joe Ryan has suggested.

Ryan: GAA may have to start hurling league earlier

The GAA will have to look at starting the Allianz Hurling League before Christmas to avoid fixtures pile-ups like the one caused by last Sunday’s string of postponements, Waterford County Board chairman Paddy Joe Ryan has suggested.

Although cognisant that a return to the schedule which saw the hurling league commence in October and pick up in February the following year would significantly eat into the off-season, Ryan is adamant the current format cannot be retained given that club games, for the second year in a row, have been impacted by the congestion in Division 1A and 1B.

The first round of the Waterford SHC is pencilled in for March 30/31, but should the Déise hurlers reach the league final, which has been moved to that weekend as a result of last weekend’s postponed games, club championship activity will be shelved.

No more than last year, Waterford County Board plan to fully utilise the club month of April by playing two rounds of hurling and two rounds of football championship. At an executive meeting of the board on Monday evening, it was decided to press ahead with one round of hurling and two rounds of football should Páraic Fanning’s charges progress to the league decider.

Were Waterford to be involved on the last afternoon of the league, there is the option to play the affected club hurling championship games on the final weekend of April, but this was not a runner among board officials as it falls just a fortnight before their Munster SHC opener on May 12. Mind you, four Cork SFC knockout games were played two weeks before the county’s 2017 Munster final against Kerry — not that the then Cork management agreed with these games going ahead, of course.

The Cork CCC met last night to finalise county championship fixtures for later this month and April. The rescheduled hurling league is likely to have led to a rethink over when the colleges/divisional section of the Cork SHC throws in, as some of John Meyler’s charges would be involved with Imokilly and UCC.

With not a single break weekend pencilled into the initial fixture plan from round three of the Allianz hurling league on, Ryan agrees there was always the potential for trouble given its congested nature.

Not since the tail end of 1995 have there been hurling league matches in October and November (2000 in football’s case), but Ryan believes Croke Park top brass must consider reintroducing this system, or finding some other alternative which has the league finishing when it is supposed to finish and with no knock-on implications for the club player.

“One solution to the current problem is going back to the system where we started the league in October or November and get a game or two out of the way before the new year,” claimed Ryan.

They can’t push the league into April as that is encroaching on what is supposed to be a club month, so they have to look at when they are starting the league. There is very little wiggle room as it is, it is too crowded.

“I’ve always been an advocate that, maybe, we should play a round or two of the league in November/December. Of course, if you do that — and this is almost defeating my argument — it’ll mean less of a closed season for inter-county players, and with teams starting training earlier, it’ll lead to unsustainable costs in terms of the money being pumped into preparing inter-county teams.

“Certainly, a solution has to be found as the uncertainty the postponements have caused for club players is not fair.” Ryan added: “We have received no byes into the Munster club semi-finals later in the year, so all our county champions will be involved in Munster quarter-finals.

“That means less room for manoeuvre at that end of the year to get our county championships finished. It is going to be a taxing year in that sense. Because of such, we are anxious to abide by our club schedule as much as possible.”

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