One of the first proponents of bringing All-Ireland finals forward has reservations about the practicality of completing the club season in the calendar year.
Central Council will today hear proposals to facilitate the completion of the All-Ireland Club championships before mid-December by 2016, which may include condensing the All-Ireland championships.
Via his county Clare, former Munster chairman Noel Walsh put forward a motion to Congress in 2008 to have the All-Ireland SHC final fixed for the last weekend in August and the football decider scheduled for the second weekend in September. Walsh felt it would free up space for club games to be played.
In principle, the Miltown-Malbay man is supportive of providing more weekends for clubs and even believes sacrificing something as special as the club finals on St Patrick’s Day is worth it.
However, he has concerns about just how workable it will be to have all fixtures finished in 12 months. He also believes a lot of counties may have to reconsider straight knockout structures for their championships.
“This was discussed at our county board in Ennis last (Thursday) night and Clare barely finished our fixtures in time for the Munster championship even with just one successful county team, the U21 hurlers,” said Walsh. “So if the club championships are to be completed now in the one year it will mean all county finals will have to be played in late September, early October. That is not viable for a lot of counties, especially the dual ones like ourselves at the moment. The point I made at the meeting was counties will have to look at straight knockout in their championships. However, coaches are being paid and there are a lot of preparations going into club teams such as weight training in the spring... they’re imitating county teams. Will it be worth it for just for one game?
“If Clare are to comply, we will have to consider reverting to knockout. It’ll be the same for counties like Cork where it could be Nemo Rangers v Castlehaven in the first round in the first week of June and if Castlehaven lose they’re gone. It will be very hard to achieve completion in the one year without that (knockout). It’ll be interesting to see how county delegates react to that idea.”
However, Walsh can see a lot of merit in having the entire club and county season done and dusted in a calendar year. “There’s a lot of benefits to everything finishing up in December. You’ve everything cleared for the coming year and counties have all their players for the leagues. The club finals on St Patrick’s Day experience is great and successful from the point of view in attendances but if it means clubs have more time in the season and everything’s tidied up then so be it. But I can see many complications for fixture committees in making this happen especially for dual counties like ourselves.”
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