The Indo is reporting today that, once again, the team that loses next year’s Connacht final will face a six-day turnaround before having to play a knockout Round 4 qualifier tie. The team that’s beaten in the Ulster final will face the same fate as well.
None of this should come as any surprise to us – the Connacht championship fixture list for 2011 has been available, in all its magnificent stupidity, for some time. The championship is due to start on the first day in May and, after a truly gruelling schedule of six matches, is set to end a full eleven weeks later. There’s a four-week break between the utterly pointless excursion to New York on May Day (which Roscommon get to go on next year) and the slightly less stupid outing to Ruislip (which we’re down for in 2011) on May 29th. Then the pace picks up, with Leitrim and Sligo playing the following weekend and then the winners of that one playing again two weeks after that against the victors in Gaelic Park. (As an aside, this means that two counties will have played twice before Galway appear at all – this doesn’t happen until the weekend of June 25th). Following the Mayo/London v Galway semi-final, there’s then a three-week break before the Connacht final on July 17th.
What bugs me is why this kind of imbecilic scheduling is allowed to happen year after year. In that Indo article, the GAA spokesman said that their hands were tied in that the All-Ireland quarter-finals need to be played on the August Bank Holiday weekend. That’s fair enough but it still doesn’t explain why the Connacht Council fix their championship in a way that severely disadvantages one of their own counties by providing for such a short turnaround.
I know that match scheduling is bound up in TV rights and crap like that but by acceding to the fixing of the Connacht final so late in July year after year, the Connacht Council is showing a craven inability to stand up for counties within the province. There’s no reason why the Connacht final should be played any later that the 7th or 8th of July and with the coming reduction in live matches and the trend towards playing championship matches on Saturdays as well as Sundays, it simply cannot be the case that the only date on which the Connacht final can be played is six days before Round 4 of the qualifiers. It’s time for the Connacht Council to stop acting like a doormat where it comes to championship fixtures and instead to start standing up for the Connacht counties they’re supposed to be representing.