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Friday night clashes will force the players to make more sacrifices

By Joe Kernan

When Laois and Carlow were initially paired in the first round of the All-Ireland football qualifiers, no one surely saw the furore that this would cause.

It's not the fact that these neighbours will go head to head in the competition that has triggered so much debate but WHEN they will do battle.

It's tomorrow night actually – and this is where the precedent is being established.

Surely, some people thought, there must be some mistake? Major championship matches don't after all take place on Friday nights, do they?

They will from here on in, it seems.

Oh yes, the Gaelic Players Association, various units within the GAA itself and Uncle Tom Cobley and all have had their say, it seems, on what is a red-hot topical issue.

But the GAA powers that be have decreed that the match will go ahead and it would appear that it could be the first of many to be allocated a Friday night slot in an already cluttered and distinctly disjointed fixtures calendar.

While this latest innovation will now be put to the test, I have reservations about the decision to embrace Friday night as a suitable time for staging major matches that until quite recently were the sole preserve of prime time Sunday throw-in times.

Not any more – not with the influence of television, a changing society and the preponderance of superbly-floodlit state of the art stadia virtually inviting action. Yet practicalities must be faced. Players cannot be expected to rush from work or studies and suddenly become mentally prepared as well as physically toned to engage in the white heat of battle.

Employers may surely wish to accommodate such players but might not those same employers have other employees who might wish to avail of similar concessions?

And are players to be reimbursed for taking time off work in order to assist their counties in the best possible manner?

The word 'sacrifices' is used over and over again nowadays to encapsulate just what is involved in being a county team player.

Now it would seem that those same players are about to be asked to make even more sacrifices. I would harbour reservations that Friday night games should become par for the course. A survey undertaken in Derry would suggest that players there are actually in favour of Friday night games and it would be interesting to see if this applies in other counties.

The players are surely entitled to have their say but Fridays for me would be a no-go area.

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