The special GAA congress on hurling leaves the Cork GAA with a “considerable challenge” in getting its fixtures run off next year, according to senior administrator Diarmuid O’Donovan.
The changes to the senior hurling championship include extra games in a round-robin style provincial championship in Munster and Leinster during the months of May and June, but hard information on how those extra fixtures will be accommodated in the calendar has not emerged.
The fixture challenge is not limited to Cork, as sizeable dual counties such as Dublin, Galway and Tipperary can expect to face similar issues in running off county championships, but Cork are now playing a minimum of 410 domestic championship games per year, an increase of 33% on the figure of 306 games just two years ago.
This figure does not include junior championship activity in the eight divisional regions of Cork.
“There are other considerations that come into play, apart from the demands of inter-county teams,” said O’Donovan.“That’s the one people think of immediately, and in July this year we only played five [three senior hurling and two senior football] championship games, because the county senior hurlers, U-21 hurlers and senior footballers were going through the championship.
“The complications of playing during the month of July have reached the point where we allow the first two weeks of July as a ‘holiday period’ for clubs, but as you approach the end of the summer there’s another pressure to conclude championships in order to get teams qualified for the provincial club championships, as well.
“For example, our Premier Intermediate Hurling Championship final has to be played this weekend, because the winners of Kanturk and Mallow are expected to play in the Munster Club Intermediate Hurling Championship on the weekend of October 22. Both these clubs are strong dual-code clubs that played and won football semi-finals last weekend.
“The ongoing challenge is to fit the number of games you need to play into the time you have available, and we’ll need precise information in the form of the proposed fixture plan and dates to do that.”
Cork had planned a review of championship structures for next month in any case, he adds.“We expect to hear from Croke Park on the detail of those extra games in their proposed Fixture Plan before the end of October.
“We had planned a review of our championship structures in November in any case, so this will dovetail with those discussions, but it’s going to be a considerable challenge to get our competitions, in their current format, run off next year.”
O’Donovan pointed to other competitions at underage level which will squeeze an already crowded fixture calendar even further: “People have discussed already the likelihood of games being postponed in July, when the U20 football, U21 hurling and the minor competitions are likely to be played, but we’ll need to nail down these dates. Precise dates will enable us to get our own county championships played.”
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