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Good spread of weekend games just the ticket for demanding fans

By Joe Kernan

When Donegal hosted Antrim in the opening match of last year's Ulster Championship the contest was accorded undue publicity for two reasons.

It was the only championship tie in the entire country that day – and it proved a truly lamentable tie, even allowing for the fact that the saturated conditions did not help matters. Columns of newsprint, several hours of television and radio programming and innumerable tweets were deployed to carry a totally negative message to all corners of Ireland.

I feel sure that particular match was in the minds of GAA chiefs when they decided within the last few days that in future there should be a greater spread of championship matches on summer weekends.

For all the high-octane entertainment that has been served up over the course of recent weeks, there has been the occasional Sunday when only a few matches were staged, thus lessening the interest in the games programme.

Croke Park Director of Games Feargal McGill admits that on some weekends the fixtures programme can be less than appetising from the perspective of grassroots followers.

Now it will be interesting to see if the GAA can serve up a consistently interesting menu involving provincial championship and qualifier ties.

Ulster chairman Martin McAviney, quite rightly in my view, makes the point that the provincial championships should always have primacy.

That will continue to be the case but one would hope that a decent balance is achieved in arranging fixtures.

I cannot see the Association continuing with its experiment in relation to Friday night fixtures although this issue may not be totally dead in the water.

While the Laois v Carlow tie took place on a Friday night recently and generated reasonable interest, it would appear that the logistics of staging further matches on Fridays make this all but impossible.

An attractive programme of matches embracing a Saturday and Sunday on any given weekend would surely sate the appetite of even the most demanding fan.

There are a number of followers – more than many people believe, in fact – who would like to see as many possible games in the flesh.

And it would seem that they are about to be facilitated in this respect.

For all its suggested failings , the Celtic Tiger certainly helped to provide a sophisticated network of first-class roads in this country. This makes it easy for fans to travel, particularly if they happen to be based in a central location.

I believe that if the GAA implements its more streamlined fixtures programme, then its coffers will be considerably boosted and the sport might conceivably reach a new audience.

One thing is for certain – nothing beats being there!

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