Wicklow county board defend their role in St Patrick’s fixtures farce

WICKLOW GAA HAVE defended their role in the farcical situation which saw county champions St Patrick’s play two championship games in the space of 24 hours last weekend. 

St Patrick’s defeated Rathnew in the Wicklow county final replay at Joule Park, Aughrim on Saturday and went down by 10 points to Offaly champions Rhode the following day at the same venue. 

“It can’t be done, it’s impossible to play two games in a row, especially with the effort that these other teams are putting in,” said St Patrick’s manager Casey O’Brien after Sunday’s game.

“No matter how fit one team is, it can’t be an even playing field the next day. Surely to God somebody somewhere along the line must’ve been able to shift a few fixtures and put our match back. There has to be a weekend break somewhere.

“It was totally unfair to whoever was representing Wicklow and after being in a losing dressing-room, it takes a little bit of an edge off winning the day before.”

St. Patrick’s manager Casey O’Brien.

Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Wicklow county board explained that the replay couldn’t have been played last weekend citing the large number of dual players in action.

They also highlighted how their competition regulations do not provide for extra-time, how Joule Park does not have floodlights to accommodate a midweek replay, and how efforts to come to an agreement with Rhode could not be reached.

The statement reads:

“Wicklow GAA wish to congratulate St. Patrick’s GAA Club Wicklow on their winning of the Renault Wicklow Senior Football Championship. Their participation in the Leinster Club Championship 24 hours after the county final replay was caused by the fact that the County football final ended in a draw. The reason that the replay could not have been played earlier was that there was a cross-over of dual players participating in both senior hurling and senior football county finals.

Our competition regulations do not provide for extra-time in a county final and we are constrained by Joule Park Aughrim not having floodlights to host a replay mid-week. We made efforts to change the date of the Leinster Club Championship match with Rhode but no agreement could be reached.
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“In a county where both hurling and football are treated equally, we do our best to plan our fixtures in a way that gives the dual club player the respect he deserves. It is however impossible to legislate for all possibilities and if we had allowed for the possibility that both county finals could have ended in draws we would have had to start and to finish our senior championships four weeks earlier.

We had a very positive year on the fixtures front. A review of the county was conducted last autumn with fixtures identified by the clubs as a key priority for improvement. Leinster Council GAA managed the review with Iar-Uachtarán Liam Ó Néill along with Shane Flanagan taking charge of designing a new fixtures calendar with the support of Wicklow County Committee and with the involvement of all Wicklow GAA Clubs.

“The 2018 fixtures plan took account of the new inter-county calendar and ongoing local issues including a request that the County Leagues be finished before the Championships began. The fixtures plan was presented to the clubs at the end of January and approved for implementation. The new calendar saw the reformatting of the club leagues and championships. The championship draws also took place in January to give added certainty to the club player.

“A number of benefits accrued from the new fixtures programme:
“Inter-County players were available for practically all league games.
“The league started earlier and was completed in advance of the championship.
“The club senior championship was played off on round-robin basis with clubs guaranteed at least five games as opposed to two games in 2017. The county finalists got nine games. Contrary to reports, the unavailability of J1 Visa players did not hold up the championship).
“The championship commenced the second week in July.

Wicklow GAA senior inter-county football team exited the All-Ireland championship on 9th June. In the time between that and the start of the club championship the concluding stages of the county league took place (as requested by the clubs). Other inter county competitions limited our opportunity to play the club championship any earlier. Our Under 20 football team exited the Leinster Championship on 16th June.

“From the start of the club championships in July football and hurling games took place week-on week-off despite the challenge faced by Wicklow as a dual code county. We also had to plan for the All-Ireland Under 21 B competition in July.

“Had the senior county football final ended in a victory for either of the participants the plan designed by the group led by Liam would have been an enormous success. The replay was unfortunate but must not take from what has been an enormously successful year for fixtures in Wicklow. Obviously Wicklow GAA will look to address the shortcomings highlighted this year.

“Looking back on the year we believe the club player had a better playing experience. We know we can still improve our competition structures. We had already planned a fixtures forum in the county on 6th November and further efforts will be made to fine tune our fixtures plan for 2019.”

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