GAA caused a storm because of the ridiculous schedule
There’s a Groundhog Day feel to today’s column.
Of course, I accept the GAA does not control the weather.
But last weekend the Met Éireann issued multiple warnings about the possible severity and location of Hurricanes Eunice and Hurricane Franklin.
Five league games have been postponed – but in the case of Galway v Offaly and Wexford v Tipperary, the visitors went on.
Indeed, the teams completed a warm-up at Wexford Park before the final game was to begin, ten minutes before the rescheduled throw-in.
We had an even weirder situation in Salthill.
Despite warnings from the Met Éireann that it was unsafe to walk on the promenade in Salthill, it was thought it would be okay to play a GAA game 200 meters away at Pearse Stadium.
So the Offaly team had no choice but to travel. The game was finally finished around noon.
Arguably, Sunday’s entire program should have been abandoned in the block because of the weather.
Granted, the Limerick County Board of Directors came up with an innovative solution when the Gaelic Grounds were unplayable in their Division 3 game against Louth.
It was moved to the University of Limerick’s 4G field – I imagine this was the first game of the interdistrict tournament to be played on an artificial field.
There was a less favorable outcome for the game Leitrim v London, which was moved from Carrick-on-Shannon to Connacht GAA’s Center of Excellence.
I watched a live TV feed of the match and the weather conditions turned the match into a complete lottery.
I’m perplexed as to why the game wasn’t shipped in-house to the Dome, on the same site.
Presumably, they’re getting ready for Congress to be there later this week.
My Groundhog Day feeling comes because we’ve been on this road before.
The last time the Allianz League was played in February, two storms caused havoc on separate weekends.
Hurricane Ciara led to the Division 1 match between Kerry and Tyrone being moved from Healy Park to Edendork – where the pitch was not as playable as in Omagh.
Two weeks later, Storm Jorge caused more disruptions. The scheduled Kerry v Mayo game for Castlebar has been postponed for 24 hours.
Once again, Healy Park was at the center of a controversy.
The Tyrone v Dublin game went ahead after three field checks.
It’s not just the turf that’s unplayable – it’s actually not safe to be on the ground because of the conditions.
The GAA didn’t learn any lessons.
Now, they face a potentially nightmarish prospect, with only one weekend to spare, next Saturday and Sunday, to play the postponed games.
What if there’s another weekend storm?
I hate to say that I told you so. But for weeks now, I’ve been babbling about the slowness of the GAA’s new schedule, which shows all games between counties will be played for the first seven months of the year.
Diving into the details reveals how unbalanced it all is.
Forty percent of all games between counties are being played in January and February.
At the end of April, three quarters of the county’s games will be played, and the number will be 92% by the end of May.
Only 33 county games are aggregated for all of June and July, while there are around 189 scheduled for January and February – and this number does not include Sigerson Cup and Fitzgibbon matches, close to the inter-district level as to not make a difference.
As Father Dougal said in Father Ted – ‘that’s crazy, Ted’.
Last weekend, I thought that if the GAA wanted to play games in the worst possible weather they could at least consider playing four innings with teams switching sides to try to mitigate the impact of the weather.
The task of facing the referees last weekend was almost impossible, so I’ll give them a pass. But I have spotted a disturbing trend.
Every team is now very focused on possession, possession and deploying some form of defence.
Inevitably, this results in players making contact with the ball more often.
In my view, dozens of these scenarios develop with each game – essentially, the ball carrier is surrounded by three or four opponents, blocked and fouled.
However, nine times out of ten, the referee will penalize the player holding the ball for carrying too much.
In general, football referees have begun copying their pitching colleagues, by blowing penalties after only every third foul.
Another area that needs to be cleared up before the championship is the application of the rules regarding penalty execution.
This year, every championship match will be decided on a date, except for the all-Ireland final.
All hell breaks loose if a team escapes the championship because the opposing goalkeeper has moved out of his way and saved a penalty in the penalty shootout.
It’s illegal but happens all the time – Rory Beggan was ecstatic to save Rian O’Neill’s penalty last weekend in the Monaghan v Armagh game. (Actually, we don’t know for sure if he saved it because the TV picture isn’t convincing).
Finally, there is still an inconsistency in the adoption of the black card, although I accept that its introduction has reduced the skepticism’s incidents.
Last weekend, for example, Monaghan’s Dessie Ward was black-carded for allegedly knocking out Armagh’s Rory Grugan in the parallelogram.
It was a penalty when Ward pulled his shirt but, as we illustrated on TV Sunday night, it wasn’t a black card offense, as Grugan grabbed Ward’s hand and then threw himself down to the ground.
This decision may have cost Monaghan a victory.
Ward’s sacking meant they were down to 13 men and Armagh scored 1-2 while he was in the trash.
Last night, Croke Park Mayo’s Ryan O’Donoghue received only one yellow card for a body check on Dublin’s John Small, which was a clear black card offence.
PS: One rule change that I omitted to include in the list of measures to improve Gaelic football last Sunday was the removal of points scored by hand.
It is a low-risk option and it is better to have a 6-point target as it will encourage the players to take more risks.
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/gaa-causing-a-storm-over-ridiculous-fixture-schedule-41396006.html GAA caused a storm because of the ridiculous schedule