Who’d be a Fixtures Planner?

Who would ever want to be a fixtures planner? If you’ve ever sat down in front of a blank sheet of paper or a spreadsheet and a list of teams for your club’s annual gathering of teams you will have some insight into the intricacies and quirks that trying to fit everything in poses.

The GAA does this on a mammoth scale week in, week out at county and national level and with 2,500 clubs and probably in excess of 20,000 teams to accommodate that is no mean feat.

It is though, a largely thankless task. Get it right and sure that’s your (voluntary) job. Dare to upset one team out of that massive list though and fire and brimstone would be too gentle a punishment.

The GAA decided last year that the months of April and September would be cleared of inter-county games from 2018 to accommodate a more balanced fixture set up for the bulk of players at club level.

It was not universally welcomed as being enough but it was a positive step in the right direction from which lessons would be learned and improvements made over time.

The first glitch to keeping September free was the arrival of Pope Francis this year and wider scheduling issues which meant that the All Ireland Football Final would still creep into the ninth month.

Of greater concern though was the weather, appropriately enough in Ireland. Not one, but two major snow events which had the whole country on lockdown have meant that the contingency built in was not enough and the Allianz League knock out stages have now been pushed back a week.

It also means that the AIB Camogie Club Finals, scheduled not once, but twice to be played at Croke Park have had to be moved out of the stadium and will instead now be played at Clones.

It’s a shame for the players and the clubs but the only alternative would have been to hold the games in Dublin this Saturday or to have them on before Dublin Vs Monaghan in the last round of the Allianz Football League. There will have been elements of cost to consider as well as team preparation and fans travelling.

The AIB All Ireland Club Hurling Final was not lost to the weather but did add to the congestion by going to a replay and that has now been fixed for 5-30 pm next Saturday in O’Moore Park in Portlaoise. The timing means that TG4 will be able to show the game live, an important consideration to be factored in.

The games in the Allianz Football league that were postponed have been put back for rescheduling after next weekend’s games are played. If there is nothing at stake for the counties involved it may be that they will go unplayed this year. Again it’s not an ideal situation but the weather is the weather.

It is always better to be ambitious and try and get as much action on as possible. The only way to ensure sufficient contingency for bad weather and other events would be to leave too many gaps scheduled in the calendar.

This year has been an exception, maybe next year will as well. But the tournaments will be played, the champions crowned and, in all likelihood, the fixture planners will forget the headaches and the abuse and come back for more again in 2019. That’s the way things get done.

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