‘Impossible to legislate for all possibilities’ – Wicklow GAA defend handling of fixture controversy

The Wicklow county GAA board has defended their handling of the controversy which saw St. Pat’s having to play two championship games in less than 24 hours, claiming that it was “impossible to legislate for all possibilities”.

On Sunday, less than a day after defeating Rathnew in a replay for their first senior county football title since 2012, St. Pat’s played Rhode in the first-round of the Leinster senior club football championship — a game they would ultimately lose 2-16 to 1-09.

The debacle has led to outrage among many, with CPA chairman Michael Bríody describing the situation as “unacceptable in this day and age”.

“There’s inadequate recovery there which means playing with damaged muscles, decreased energy, decreased coordination, guaranteed injury. It’s not acceptable in this day and age,” Bríody told RTÉ Sunday Sport.

Meanwhile, Pat’s corner-forward Stephen Duffy — who notched eight of his side’s 10 points in the county final — told WicklowNews that having to play the two games in such a short timeframe was “very frustrating”.

“Whether it was going to be ourselves or Rathnew playing on the second day, how do you expect a team to be able to give a proper account of themselves less than 24 hours after playing a county final? […] The focus was firmly on the Rhode game, but trying to mentally prepare for a huge game like that immediately after winning a county final is not something anyone should have to do,” Duffy said.

In a statement issued today, the Wicklow county board defended the way in which the fixture congestion was handled, explaining that regulations prevented the drawn game between Pat’s and Rathnew from going to extra-time.

“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.

“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.”

Despite the issues surrounding the county final replay, Wicklow GAA claimed that 2018 had been a positive year when it comes to fixtures, stating that the fixture programme which had been established by the provincial council had been a success.

“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.

“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.

“Had the senior county football final ended in a victory for either of the participants the plan designed by the group led by Liam [Ó Néill] 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,” the statement read.

Responding to the board’s statement, Wicklow senior football manager Casey O’Brien rubbished the idea that the 2018 plan had been successful, calling it “a load of s**t”.

Speaking to WicklowNews, O’Brien said: “How can they call that successful? […] It’s great that the league season is over and that you don’t have to travel to places like Hollywood and Dunlavin on a Sunday morning, and scrape together a team for league games in November and December, but the cream of the crop that everybody looks forward to is the championship.”

“It is ridiculous that there were no allowances made for replays. Had Glenealy and Carnew drawn in the hurling, they would have been in the same boat as us next weekend,” O’Brien said.

When asked about the fixtures forum that the county board had organised for the 6th of November, O’Brien said: “I don’t know [what will come out of it].

“Why are they holding it so early? That tells me that they don’t believe that it was successful.”

The full Wicklow GAA statement can be read here.

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