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Is it time to move the All-Ireland GAA club finals from their St Patrick's Day date?

The long gap between provincial finals and the All-Ireland series causes problems for clubs.

ONCE THE INITIAL euphoria abated over the last couple of weeks as clubs booked their place in the 2019 All-Ireland senior series, a familiar problem arose.

pjimage (1) Corofin and Cuala were crowned All-Ireland champions this year.

What is the best way to tackle the long bout of inactivity from now until next February?

Antrim’s Cushendall, Waterford’s Ballygunner and Galway’s St Thomas have all recently secured spots in the hurling semi-finals on 9 February. They’ll be joined by Kilkenny’s Ballyhale or Dublin’s Ballyboden after next Sunday’s Leinster decider.

In football Dr Crokes and Corofin nailed down places last Sunday in the football semi-finals on 16 February. They’ll have to wait almost 12 weeks to play that All-Ireland fixture with the winners of the forthcoming Ulster and Leinster football finals to join them.

Dr Crokes selector Niall O’Callaghan and Corofin player Gary Sice both spoke after their respective provincial victories of a wish to be facing into an All-Ireland semi-final far sooner.

Fergal McGill – the GAA’s Director of Player, Club and Games Administration – doesn’t believe change is imminent but has sympathy for the clubs affected and can see a shift in the fixture dates coming.

“Long term we’d love to get to a situation where we’d have the calendar year but as an interim step you might be able to get the semi-finals and final towards the end of January. We’re not a huge distance off that.

“We haven’t even run through one full cycle of the new fixtures calendar. I don’t think you’ll see a whole pile more changes for the next two years because it is a three year experiment.

“I think our priority for the next 24 months will be around the greater number of clubs rather than ultimately it is a small enough subset of clubs that find themselves playing into January, February or March in intermediate, junior and senior championships.

“I’d have great sympathy for any of the teams that are in that position but I don’t see a change in the short term in terms of the calendar year. We may end up being able to get back to January.

“People have strong views on not moving the club finals from St Patrick’s Day. Personally, while I think you’d lose a lot from moving it from St Patrick’s Day, in the overall and in the better interest of club fixtures, I think it needs to move ultimately but I don’t think it’s going to move this year.”

Fergal McGill Fergal McGill at today's media briefing in Croke Park. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

One change that will take place in 2019 will be the switch of the Sigerson Cup final to a midweek date. Last February Kieran Molloy featured on the same day for Corofin in an All-Ireland club semi-final and NUIG Galway in the Sigerson Cup decider.

“It’s something that was discussed with the third level,” revealed McGill.

“It’ll be interesting to see how it works on a Wednesday. It’s still a busy time of the year despite the fact that U20 football is gone out of it. You’ve the Allianz leagues, All-Ireland club semi-finals and the third-level hurling and football.

“You’ve three major competitions there that some players are eligible for three teams in that month, so it’s a difficult one to avoid clashes.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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