The GAA recently released proposals which would see an amendment to the Hurling and Football fixtures calendar. If approved the new set of fixtures would operate from 2016 for a two year trial period. The most significant amendment to the fixtures calendar is the proposal to move the All Ireland hurling and football finals one week back. And in addition if a reply was required, this would take place the following Saturday. (see link)
The main reason for these changes is to facilitate the completion of the All Ireland hurling and football club championships within the calendar year. Previously All Ireland hurling and football club semi-finals and finals ‘carried over’ into the following year with the hurling and football club finals traditionally played on St. Patricks day. I personally would welcome these changes. Over the years I have watched many great club games but have often felt that club players are disadvantaged by having to play games in October/November/December when the weather is poor and the ground is soft (hurling and football are field games which really need to be played on harder pitches). Whilst some club games will still be played during these months, the majority should now hopefully be played during August and September when the weather is somewhat better.
Fixture congestion is still going to be a problem however. Effectively two extra weekends are needed to accommodate the hurling and football club semi-finals and finals but the GAA have only moved All Ireland hurling and football finals one week back. Could the GAA have done more? One additional change that they could have made is to have the All Ireland hurling semi-finals and All Ireland football semi-finals on just one weekend (one match on Saturday evening and one match Sunday afternoon). This would give the extra week required.
I can see why they didn’t do this however. Having both hurling and football semi-finals on one weekend would mean that there would be weekends in August with no inter county matches at all and just when we are getting to the business end of the championship the last thing the GAA (and spectators) want is a break. One could go with a proposal to have hurling semi-finals, football semi-finals, hurling final, football final on four consecutive weeks but I suspect inter county teams would prefer a longer break than two weeks to prepare for a hurling/football final. Accommodating replays between the semi-final and final would also make this problematic.
So while the GAA’s proposal is one that I favour I still think work needs to be done to overhaul the fixtures calendar. Reconciling the view that it’s better for the game that club hurling is given more space on the fixtures calendar with the economic argument that inter county hurling/football needs to be given the greatest exposure in order to maximise revenue will be at the heart of the debate.