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GAA fixture list tinkering not enough for players

By John Campbell

The GAA Master Fixtures Plan for 2015 looks very much like a carbon copy of this year's.

But indications are that from 2016 the fixtures itinerary will acquire a different complexion.

Earlier this month Central Council discussed a proposal of all competitions being completed in the same calendar year and this matter is expected to come up for further debate in the New Year.

The hope is that a formal motion will then be forwarded to Congress by Central Council urging that the fixtures programme is streamlined. If it gets the necessary majority, then there will be a new-look fixtures diary for 2016.

This could mean that the All Ireland football and hurling championships will be completed earlier with finals taking place towards the end of August; the completion of the All Ireland club football and hurling championships before the end of December rather than being carried over to the following year; and greater provision for competitions such as the inter-provincial championships and All Ireland qualifiers.

While next year's agenda has been tweaked to some extent - the Sigerson Cup finals week will take place in February rather than in March and the Inter-pros played over the first weekend in December - this comes nowhere near facilitating the changes demanded.

The manner in which certain fixtures are shoe-horned into the annual calendar leaves a lot to be desired and there is an obvious need for a much more enlightened approach to be taken.

Of course the current Master Fixtures Plan does not address the clubs' plight which mostly wallow in limbo as fixtures committees squeeze square pegs into round holes.

All-Ireland finalists Donegal was a prime case in point. The domestic championship was deferred until the county's involvement in the All Ireland ended.

It was shoe-horned into a few weeks with the Ulster club championship consequently delayed.

It led to a ludicrous situation when Cloughaneely were forced to play the county intermediate decider last Saturday and an Ulster club quarter-final on Sunday.

There may be much talk of player welfare and potential burn-out but at the end of the day that's all it appears to be - talk.

Clubs require definitive action to fixtures planning with players at this level clearly not prepared to tug their forelock to their county colleagues forever and a day.

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