Murphy remains cool on GAA fixtures
ULSTER Council secretary Danny Murphy insists there is “no need to press the panic button” in relation to a restructuring of the annual overall fixtures programme.
Already this week Munster Council chairman Sean Walsh among others has called on the GAA to further streamline its annual calendar of matches to ensure that the entire programme is completed by the end of November. But Murphy stresses that Ulster in particular has traditionally enjoyed the reputation of completing its fixtures on schedule even though a postponement of last weekend’s provincial club football finals means that games will now spill over into December.
And there is still the grave danger that all three club finals — junior, intermediate and senior — could again be ruled out this weekend. “We have pitch inspections scheduled for today and we will decide accordingly when these have been carried out. The safety of our players and supporters is paramount from our perspective,” states Murphy.
With the All-Ireland club quarter-final between British champions Neasdon Gaels and the winners of the Crossmaglen Rangers v Naomh Conaill Ulster senior final also due to be played this month, there is mounting pressure on the fixture-makers.
Murphy insists that while the current spell of arctic weather has impacted adversely on the staging of outdoor sports, climate changes have been much more pronounced in recent times.
“A couple of years ago Armagh played Wexford and Kerry met Galway on a double bill in All-Ireland football quarter-finals at Croke Park in what were nothing short of monsoon conditions,” says Murphy.
“The flooding that ensued was horrendous and many Armagh fans took up to seven hours to get home – and don’t forget that was in the month of August.”
And he goes on: “The only thing you can say about the weather over the last couple of years is that it has been completely unpredictable.
“Yet I think it is worth pointing out that our last McKenna Cup programme was completed on schedule despite the fact that the weather then was the worst seen for a very long time.
“Bad weather is not unusual at this time of the year and there is often serious disruption to fixtures. It’s an ongoing problem whether we like it or not.
“Maybe we are getting just a little too excited about the possibility of harsher conditions becoming a regular feature of the year.” The suggestion has been made once again that the club championships should be completed earlier but Murphy, with considerable justification, makes the point that if this were to happen then it would necessitate a modification of the inter-county schedule.
“Quite honestly I cannot see the Croke Park authorities allowing that to happen,” says Murphy, “The Master Fixtures plan for next year is in place and while there may be tweaking along the way, I don’t think there is scope for major amendments.”
An overall fixtures blueprint for the future is currently being drawn up by a Croke Park sub-committee headed up by Longford man John Green and its proposals are expected to come before Central Council.
It is a measure of the difficulties that the GAA is encountering in accommodating fixtures that president Christy Cooney has already indicated that the Railway Cup may not return to the fixtures calendar.