Babs Keating has called on Congress delegates to vote against the motion to bring forward the All-Ireland finals by two weeks.
The former Tipperary manager is against the idea of an August final and believes the game must take place on the first or second Sundays of September for tradition’s sake.
His views aren’t shared by Cork’s John Fenton and Kilkenny’s Noel Skehan, although Fenton is concerned adding a fifth month of inactivity in inter-county hurling will have a detrimental promotional impact on the game.
Fenton also believes there will be less club hurling played in the successful counties during the summer if the final is brought forward.
If the motion is passed, the All-Ireland football final will be played on the first Sunday in September, except when there are five Sundays in September when it will be played on the second Sunday, as will be the case in 2018 and ’19. In either circumstance, the hurling final will take place two weeks earlier. It is hoped the rescheduling will provide more space for club fixtures and form part of plans for all competitions to conclude within the calendar year.
Keating argues the GAA are focusing on the wrong end of the season. “I’ve an issue with changing tradition. At the end of the day, the amount of people who plan their holidays every year around the All-Ireland is huge. It suits them. September is a GAA month and has been for so long and for that reason I’d be opposed to bring it forward.
“It’s the other end of the calendar that should be looked at. Football being played at the end of January and hurling in February in this weather is not right.”
Almost four years ago, a Nemo Rangers/St Nicholas’ co-sponsored motion to bring forward the finals by a week was passed by a large majority at Cork’s annual convention despite being opposed by members of the board executive. However, it received just 26% of delegates’ support at Congress 2013 in Derry following an intervention by GAA director general Páraic Duffy.
However, Duffy has since changed his opinion: “We must cut the clubs some slack,” he said recently. “Two weeks would be fine.”
Fenton shares some of Duffy’s previous reservations about the finals being moved.
“There are two ways of looking at it,” he says. “Number one, it will help with the club programme and that’s a big advantage. The big disadvantage is from a promotional point of view it will shorten the season and it’s a long time then without profile games in September, October, November, December and January. That’s over five months for the game to be out of the limelight although I know there will club games.
“But there will be very little club hurling played in the counties who are involved in the championship in June, July and August.”
Speaking after last year’s All-Ireland final, Brian Cody said he would have “no problem” with the hurling final being brought forward providing it assisted club fixtures.
Cody’s former selector Skehan recently saw his Bennettsbridge team have to wait eight weeks between winning a Leinster final at the end of November and an All-Ireland semi-final last month and then just two weeks between the semi-final and their final win over Galway’s Abbeyknockmoy on February 7.
“You have to allow the clubs the chance to finish a little bit earlier,” he insists. “I would like to see it (the motion) going ahead because when we were involved in the latter stages of the intermediate championship it had gone a bit late.
“I’m not so much worried about the final being moved to August as what it might do to give clubs more time and a better time of the year to finish off their championships. If you don’t look after the clubs, you won’t have county teams.
“Okay, people go away on holidays in August but it’s terrible for club players to have to hang around all the year and then come the county final you’re playing in bad conditions in mid or late October. This isn’t for the sake of the All-Ireland but the clubs.”
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