herald

Sunday 22 April 2018

FIXTURES HAVE KETTLE BOILING

DUBLIN GAA chiefs felt compelled to replay their flagship county football final tomorrow night after getting "informal" word that next Sunday's scheduled Leinster Club SFC clash between St Loman's and the eventual Dublin champions would not be postponed.

As a result, Ballymun Kickhams and St Vincent's must do it all over again in Parnell Park tomorrow (7.45pm), just three days after extra-time couldn't separate them in Sunday's original epic stalemate ... and then less than four days later, the winners must travel into Loman's Mullingar den.

"Happy is certainly not the word," Dublin chairman Andy Kettle told the Herald, "but unfortunately that is the predicament we find ourselves in.

"It's not the ideal preparation for either team, whichever wins on Wednesday night, going out the following Sunday against the Westmeath champions."

According to Kettle, the county board decided on their midweek replay date after getting informal word ("and I underline informal") that there would be "nothing forthcoming" on the possibility of delaying the Leinster club quarter-final tie between the Westmeath and Dublin kingpins.

In other words, if Dublin wanted their champions to be represented, the replay would have to be staged before Sunday.

When contacted, Leinster Council chairman Martin Skelly confirmed that as of 4pm yesterday, there had been no application from the Dublin board seeking a postponement.

Skelly also pointed out: "We did give Dublin some leeway two years ago when they ran into awful bother. All of the counties of Leinster gave Dublin an opportunity. At that time, they guaranteed they would put their house in order, fixture-wise, and in fairness to Dublin they have met all of the deadlines that have been set for them, ever since."

Even if Dublin had formally sought a deferral, this wouldn't have been a straight-forward matter because the Leinster Council would have been obliged to ask St Loman's whether they were amenable to a new date.

In theory, there was some wriggle room in the schedule, given that the Leinster SFC semi-finals are pencilled in for November 24, two weeks after the quarter-finals.

The flip side is that this particular logjam would never have arisen but for the now seemingly perennial extension of the Dublin club championship season into late October or even early November.

Asked if Dublin could play off their club championships any earlier, Kettle replied: "It's something that we look at every year, particularly when the county fixtures come out.

EXPECTATIONS

"However, difficulties inevitably arise when you lay them on the matrix and look at county hurling and football and the expectations that are there.

"There possibly could be a little chink of light next year because the hurlers go directly into the semi-final of the Leinster championship," he added.

"The clubs in the early stages of the championship have to have access to their county players, certainly a week before a championship game. There is very little scope, but there is an understanding of that in Croke Park and there is work being done on it."

Kettle pointed out that there is a "dedicated time" for club championship activity in May, but, even here, matters can be complicated if Dublin reach the business end of the Allianz National Football and Hurling Leagues.

This year, their hurlers reached the NHL semi-finals, while the footballers claimed a first NFL title since 1993.

"The hope was to play two rounds of each (football and hurling) before June ... we got two rounds of hurling still played and one round of football," the Dublin chairman explained.

In normal circumstances, either defending provincial champions Ballymun or St Vincent's would be hot favourites to account for a Loman's outfit making their maiden assault on Leinster; but being asked to play three championship games in eight days is a huge ask for any club team.

On the same Sunday afternoon, the Dublin SHC final between Ballyboden St Enda's and Lucan Sarsfields will proceed at Parnell Park (3pm).

Suffice to say, the Donnycarney hierarchy will be hoping for a decisive outcome, given that the winners face into a Leinster SHC semi-final against Mount Leinster Rangers of Carlow just seven days later.

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