The Ulster Council now faces a major pre-Christmas fixtures headache following the postponement of the three provincial club football finals — junior, intermediate and senior — for the second weekend in succession.
With the Kingsan Breffni Park, Cavan and St Tiernach’s Park, Clones playing surfaces frozen solid under a layer of snow yesterday the Council had no option but to put its showpiece club games on hold yet again.
And as Council officials now anxiously await an improvement in the weather conditions, there is a fear that the scheduled All-Ireland Club football quarter-final between the winners of the Crossmaglen Rangers v Naomh Conaill Ulster senior decider and British champions Neasdon Gaels may not be played before Christmas.
This match had originally been fixed for tomorrow but has now been very much put on the back burner.
Ulster Council fixtures administrator Stephen Donnelly has already confirmed that the three finals have been re-fixed for next weekend but admits that all eyes will be on the sky in the interim. And Council PRO Oliver Galligan, while conceding that the Council has been presented with a late-season dilemma, stresses that safety is paramount.
“Obviously it is frustrating to have had to call off these finals on two weekends on the trot but I don’t think anyone would have anticipated that the cold snap would be so severe,” says Galligan.
Crossmaglen Rangers joint manager Tony McEntee admits that tomorrow’s postponement is “another blow” but is ready to ensure that his players remain focused on their task.
“We have young guys in particular who will be playing in their first Ulster final and this waiting game is especially frustrating for them,” he said.
“But they will have to be patient. We cannot afford to take our eye off the ball even though things are at a standstill.”
The Ulster Council has amended the starting times for next weekend’s games. While the intermediate final between Lisnaskea and Doohamlet had been arranged for a 7pm throw-in in Cavan on each of the last two Saturdays it has now been scheduled for a 2pm start next Saturday.
“We feel that this will best facilitate players and fans taking everything into consideration,” adds Galligan. The junior final has been again fixed for Clones on Sunday next but with an earlier throw-in time of 12pm while the senior decider will begin at 1.45pm. This is designed to allow fans to return home in comparative daylight.
The fixtures chaos is a blow to the Ulster Council which had completed all of its competitions for this year without a hitch up until now. Council secretary Danny Murphy points out: “We were satisfied with the manner in which we had progressed all our competitions but you just cannot legislate for the kind of weather we have been having lately. It is, after all, an act of God.”