Ulster Council president Aoghan Farrrell has given a warm welcome to the fact that two important proposed fixtures innovations were given the green light at Saturday’s Central Council meeting in Dublin.
Delegates voted to reintroduce the semi-finals of the National Football and Hurling Leagues in Division One only from 2012 and as from next year the three tiers of the All-Ireland Hurling Championship represented by the Christy Ring, Nicky Rackard and Lory Meagher Cup competitions will be brought forward by one month to erase the possibility of a clash between provincial and national fixtures.
There has been a groundswell of support for the return of the National League semi-finals — as things stand the top two teams in Division One contest the final — and Farrell is among many leading administrators who believe that this move will add a fresh element to the competition overall.
“This change cannot be implemented until 2012 as it will take the passing of a formal motion to this effect at next year’s Congress in Mullingar to pave the way for the move but it is a very welcome step. There is a feeling that the staging of semi-finals will give more teams the incentive to press harder for honours,” explains Farrell.
The closing stages of this year’s National Hurling league were marked by some ‘dead rubbers’ that only served to dilute the excitement of the closing stages.
When National Football League semi-finals were played in the past they normally attracted big crowds but they were dispensed with as part of a fixtures pruning exercise.
And while the National Leagues will be given an added dynamic from 2012, the three tiers outside next year’s All-Ireland Hurling Championship proper will be completed earlier in the season to avoid a clash with important provincial championship ties.
“We had that situation this year and it was not satisfactory. This is a sensible decision and it is taken in the interest of players and spectators. It is important that we strive to ensure that there are no major fixture clashes although obviously it’s not always possible to achieve this,” says Farrell.
The Cootehill schoolteacher, who received a prolonged ovation when he addressed guests at the Quinn Insurance Ulster GAA Writers Association awards banquet in the Sliabh Russell Hotel, Ballyconnell on Friday night, has urged all people in clubs to bond together even better and to reach out to others.
“The GAA is about place, it’s about where we are from. As we prepare to go into a new year in which we will be meeting more challenges it is important that we remember to reach out to everyone and let them know there is welcome within our Association for them,” added Farrell.
He has also paid a glowing tribute to the Sean Quinn Group of companies whom he said continue to prove great friends of the GAA even in the difficult economic climate.
Meanwhile, former Down All -Ireland hero James McCartan who was part of the trail-blazing 1960 and ’61 teams will launch his new book at a gala reception in the Canal Court Hotel, Newry tonight which will be attended by a host of personalities from various sports including GAA and greyhound racing.