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Burnout fears over hectic GAA schedule

There is increasing concern within the GAA that the fixtures itinerary in the early part of 2012 is much too heavy with considerable demands being made on players.

And while January and February undoubtedly offer a busy schedule, this pales into insignificance when compared to March.

The National Football and Hurling Leagues, the Ulster U21 football championship, the MacRory Cup and All-Ireland club finals, the Sigerson Cup, the Railway Cup and the various All County leagues form a menu that is demanding to say the least.

Fergal McGill - the GAA Games Manager - has already gone on record as saying that the early-season glut of matches is "unavoidable" but this could have huge repercussions for the Association.

GAA Director General Paraic Duffy recently made the point that to finish the All-Ireland football championship a couple of weeks earlier than is the case at present - something a lot of people would favour, incidentally - might be to deny the competition the oxygen of publicity at a time of year when soccer and rugby are switching into overdrive.

The corollary of this is that the preponderance of competitive fixtures in the month of March in particular means that some of these will not be afforded the profile they might reasonably deserve.

Indeed, there appears to be a fervent desire on the part of the GAA to offer a glut of fixtures in February and March when the weather can still be unkind and enthusiasm for travel on the part of fans rather limited.

Yet this year there were weekends during the course of the spring and summer when there was a sparse diet of meaningful fixtures.

When Donegal and Antrim met in that eminently forgettable Ulster championship tie back in May, it was the only fixture of any status to be played in the country as a whole over the course of that weekend - and we all know the kind of media reaction the game engendered at what should have been an exciting start to the championship itinerary.

More prudent fixtures planning would surely alleviate what can only be described as an unnecessary bottleneck in March in particular.

The GAA authorities can push the boat out on many occasions to ensure that the stage is totally cleared to allow certain fixtures to take place in the full glare of national publicity while at other times total congestion prevails.

Belfast Telegraph


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