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Sunday 23 September 2018

Friday fever is not for Offaly

Faithful 'would sooner play Longford at any other time'

Offaly manager Emmet McDonnell. Picture: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile
Offaly manager Emmet McDonnell. Picture: Oliver McVeigh/Sportsfile

THE Leinster Council wants to kickstart its senior football championship with some Friday night fever next May ... but the proposal looks set to be opposed by one of the two counties involved.

The hope is to play the Pearse Park clash between Longford and Offaly on the third Friday of the month – May 16 – and the matter will be discussed at a full meeting of the provincial council tonight.

However, the Herald has learned that Offaly have concerns about the proposed timing, primarily because of the travel distances involved.

In a nutshell, they don't view Longford as a local derby and have issues with asking players and supporters to undergo such a journey after a normal working day on a Friday evening. For example, the distance between Edenderry and Longford town is 47 miles and would take one hour and 18 minutes, according to the AA website.

Contacted yesterday, Offaly chairman Pádraig Boland stressed that discussions within his county were still ongoing and they had yet to formulate a firm position.

He revealed that Offaly football manager Emmet McDonnell was due to talk to his squad last night, while he had also emailed members of his county board executive to elicit their views ahead of tonight's Leinster Council discussion.

Asked for his own personal perspective, Boland stated: "It would be far easier for us, from both a player's perspective and a supporter's perspective, if we were playing Laois in Portlaoise or Westmeath in Cusack Park. Longford isn't as near to us.

"If you are living in Edenderry – as many of our players are, never mind supporters – Longford is a long journey. Friday evening after work mightn't be the easiest thing for people.

"I have spoken to a couple of the players already, and they have flagged that," he added. "Emmet will be consulting them collectively. I would imagine that players wound find it difficult enough."

The Offaly chairman concluded: "My own gut feeling is we would sooner play it at any other time."

Both county boards have been circulated with the proposal, emanating from Leinster's competitions control committee (CCC), but a final decision is not expected at tonight's meeting as provincial chiefs anticipate more questions from the counties.

Longford chairman Brendan Gilmore confirmed that the matter is due to be discussed at meetings of their executive and full county board tomorrow night. "I have no problem with Friday night – that is my own personal opinion," he outlined.

According to Gilmore, playing on the Friday night would be "ideal" from the perspective of facilitating club action later in the weekend. "You could play senior league matches on Sunday whereas now you are confined. It would cut down on the fixture pile-up at the end of the year," he suggested.

 

COMPLICATION

One complication could be the level of daylight for a Friday night fixture, given that Glennon Brothers Pearse Park does not have floodlights.

According to Boland, Offaly were not given a specific throw-in time but he cited potential problems if the game was fixed for, say, 7.30pm.

"For pig iron I googled 'sunset' on the date next year and it's somewhere between ten and 18 minutes past nine – it would be tight enough," he maintained.

Clearly, however, the Leinster CCC does not envisage bad light being a factor in mid-May and nor would officials have to worry about the possibility of extra-time, as this no longer applies for early rounds of the senior inter-county championship.

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