GAA Fixture Planning Accelerates

The GAA has announced the membership and also the terms of reference for the new Fixtures Calendar Review Task Force that was announced last month.

The committee has been established by GAA President John Horan and could lead to the creation of a second tier All Ireland Football Championship as soon as 2020.

The group has been tasked with having a report with recommendations ready for next November, which could feed into motions being put before the GAA’s decision making Congress in February 2020.

The second tier Championship is not specifically named as one of the terms of reference but is seen to be part of the overall consideration of “current significant issues affecting the GAA Fixtures Calendar, including the current positioning and footprint of inter-county competitions and the time available for clubs.

The timing and structure of the main inter county tournaments going from pre-season all the way through to League and Championship will be considered, as will the potential for a calendar year Club Championship season.

There is an existing template for this with the Ladies Football Club Championship Finals taking place in early December but it will be challenging to get games played and still maintain the hold that inter-county managers have over the retention of players away from clubs during the high summer.

Third level competitions including the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups are also in the mix as well as the existing U20 and Minor competitions so it promises to be a pretty complex set of considerations.

The National Fixture Analysts Committee will host a forum at Croke Park next Saturday at which it is expected most if not all of the committee members will be present and the first formal meeting will take place on Thursday week.

The makeup of the Committee was confirmed yesterday as being chaired by Eddie O’Sullivan from the GAA’s Coiste Bainistíochta or Management Committee and including Michael Martin, Chair of the National Fixture Analysts Committee; John Costello and Kevin O’Donovan, CEO’s of Dublin and Cork GAA; Stephen Barker of Derry from the Ulster Council, John Prenty of Mayo from the Connacht Council; Ronan Sheehan representing the Gaelic Players Association and Michael Higgins representing the Club Players Association; Michael Hyland the Chair of the GAA Higher Education Committee, Seamus Woods the Chair of the GAA Post Primary School’s Committee and Conor O’Donoghue, Meath County Minor Team Manager.

That’s a wide-ranging representative group and there will be conflicting opinions on how different competitions can be maintained in their place on the calendar while at the same time giving space and scope for all to thrive and flourish.

It has also been suggested that the committee elicit views from within key committee’s of the Association and from interested individuals.

It’s a big pile of work to get through in a relatively short space of time with lots of competing interests but given that the idea was only flagged in public two weeks ago it is an impressive way to hit the ground running.

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