Galway chairman Paul Bellew has expressed disappointment at the 7pm throw-in for the county’s Leinster SHC final against Kilkenny in Croke Park on Saturday week.
Bellew believes the late start will have an impact on the Galway crowd for the game in Dublin, saying it denies a lot of children the opportunity to watch the county in a senior decider.
“From a supporters’ point of view, it’s a disappointing time,” he said. “From a team perspective, it makes no difference. They’re happy to play at whatever time but in terms of supporters and Galway supporters especially with the demands from a dual perspective it is difficult.
“The day we play our Leinster final will be our 27th inter-county game in 22 weekends between football and hurling. I think the crowd will be impacted from Galway for a 7 o’clock throw-in. Families and kids are the ones who are impacted the most.
“From our perspective, one of the highlights of the season has been the number of kids on the pitch at half-time in matches, no more so than in Athenry last Saturday with our first home minor hurling championship game. I think a lot of those kids and families won’t take up the option to travel to Croke Park on Saturday week.”
Bellew’s comments follow those of Galway senator Ollie Crowe who also criticised the throw-in time. “Disappointing to see the Leinster hurling final set for 7pm on a Saturday evening,” he wrote on Facebook. “Difficult for families from Galway/Kilkenny to attend as they won't be home until after midnight.
“Hotel/accommodation prices in Dublin on a Saturday night too expensive for many families to stay overnight. No doubt (the start is) due to TV demands, but it will now result in a much smaller crowd that the teams deserve.”
Meanwhile, Bellew says ensuring regular inter-county games for underage players in Galway will be “a priority” for him and the county executive when the inter-county championships have concluded.
“In the broader context, I can’t emphasise enough what a great afternoon we had in Athenry last weekend and the Clare minors coming to Galway and the crowd it drew. To be straight up, we strongly opposed the U19 motion at Congress not for a fundamental reason but because of our reasons about the structures of these competitions.
“In the off season when everything is put to bed, we will be addressing a number of those issues in terms of where we stand in U20 and U17 and the quality and quantity of games in football and hurling.
“We had different structures in the province in U20 and U17 in football then we had play one in U20 hurling and in the minor we’re happy enough because we had a home game. But you want consistency across the grades and this isn’t just a provincial issue but a national one.”
Despite opposition from rural clubs especially in east Galway, the county’s senior hurling championship will be reduced in size from 2023 as per the national directive.
“The championship restructuring is good to go,” added Bellew. “It was signed off by the clubs and it is something we will review after a couple of years. We’re going to be in line with the 16-team requirement from next year so no need for a derogation or extra time needed. We had a rigorous debate with the clubs over the last three months and we’ve reached a position where we are compliant with rule.”
Bellew has also called for a pause in the debate about the split season. “It is going to tell a story on both sides. There has been a lot of commentary already and I think people need to let the season pan out for both county and club. There will be plenty of dark evenings to talk about it again but it would be good if a lid was put on coverage of it nationally. There are plenty of things going on in the field than talking about the split season.”