It was “madness” to think the Allianz Hurling League could be successfully run off across nine weekends, according to Tipperary chairman John Devane.
The hurling league final was originally scheduled for Saturday, March 24. But with two weekends lost to poor weather, the semi-finals are now pencilled in for Saturday, March 31.
The Division 2 football final, earmarked for Sunday, April 1, will be pushed back a week if Tipperary win or draw away to Cavan this weekend.
The Premier County had planned to fully utilise the free month of April to begin their senior football, senior hurling and divisional hurling championships. The recent upheaval at inter-county level, however, has thrown their club schedule into disarray.
There is a strong possibility the first two weekends of April will be lost to refixed league games, meaning “huge problems” for Tipperary’s April programme of club action.
The divisional hurling championship, as had been provisionally planned, will not commence on the Easter Bank Holiday weekend.
The senior hurling championship, meanwhile, was supposed to throw-in on the weekend of April 7/8. Should either of the county teams reach a league decider, then it will be the middle of April before the club championship gets off the ground.
Should it come to that, the Tipperary CCC — they meet next Monday — will have to decide whether to press ahead with the first round of the local football championship on April 14/15 or give hurling priority.
Tipperary chairman John Devane says the recent spate of postponements has made a mockery of April’s status as a ‘club only’ month.
The potential for trouble, he added, can be traced back to last year’s decision to retain the hurling league quarter-finals.
“Croke Park authorities didn’t want them kept. Central Council voted to keep the status quo. It is an extra round and in a tight structure, it is giving counties less leeway with regard to their county championships. If there weren’t quarter-finals, we’d have been safe. Now look what we’ve been left with,” Devane remarked.
“The league is eight rounds in hurling and football [if you reach the final], run-off from the last weekend of January to the last weekend of March. That was madness. That was not possible. The threat of weather disrupting fixtures was highlighted before the schedule was rubber-stamped. It wasn’t feasible to do what they tried to do.”
And with the new hurling and football championship formats bringing a complete halt to club activity during the months of May, June and July, Devane knows there is a chance club hurlers and footballers might only play one round of championship between here and mid-August.
“Ten of Liam Kearns’ football team play hurling with their club. There is a huge overlap. That is one of the problems we have. I don’t think the structures that are there at inter-county allow for that. That is one of the reasons we were leading the resistance at Special Congress last year.
“The Munster Hurling Championship round-robin, we would not have been in favour of that. We spoke against it. It doesn’t favour counties trying to promote both codes at club level.”
The board tried to sort out their own house last November by making the divisional hurling championship separate to the County SHC. Clubs disagreed and so they are left with the situation where the knockout stages of the County SHC cannot proceed until all four divisional championships are wrapped up.
There are 16 teams in the Tipperary SHC, while 12 teams compete for the Seamus O’Riain Cup (senior B competition). All 28 compete for one of the four divisional titles and if a senior B team wins their divisional championship, they gain backdoor entry into the county championship proper.
“Clubs wanted to keep the status quo. One of the consequences of that is uncertainty for the club player. It is adding rounds. We will now be under pressure to make our deadlines for the start of the Munster Club Championships.”
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