Master Fixtures Schedule for 2017
By Cian O'Connell
The GAA has released its Master Fixtures Schedule for 2017.
All the details of fixtures administered centrally are included in the comprehensive document.
Following an extensive process the GAA's Central Competition Control Committee (CCCC), chart the fixtures for the next year of action.
George Cartwright, Chairman of the CCCC, explains the process before the final document is agreed. “I work with good people, the CCCC consists of the four provincial secretaries and four other men, who have been appointed by Ard Comhairle on the recommendation of an tUachtaran - one from each province,” Cartwright told GAA.ie.
“Obviously we have tremendous backup staff in Croke Park. Fergal McGill, who is Head of Games Administration has vast experience and knowledge of how all of this works and Bernard Smith, who is the National Fixtures and Project Administrator in Croke Park, they are all central to the process. I myself as Chairman, oversee it, liaise and work with them to produce the document as best we can.
“There is a lot of work in it from all of the stakeholders: county, club, provinces and so on. The process begins in June and obviously we have numerous drafts that we draw up first before the final document is agreed upon. There is a lot of liaising, phone calls and emails, everything has to dovetail before we can send it out.”
Cartwright highlights the ‘small tweaks’ that have been made. “There are some changes that would occur during the year as regards competition regulations and competition structures,” Cartwright says. “We would incorporate them as we go long according to the new plan. For example, simple things like there will be no Football League Semi-Finals, the Football League Finals will take place one week after Round 7.
“In Division 1 of the Allianz Hurling League will have the Quarter-Final after the last round of league games, with a week gap before the Semi-Finals, and the Final the following week. The Quarter-Finals and Semi-Finals this year will have a winner on the day. We have incorporated some requests from counties made earlier in the year made at a Central Council meeting - there will not be three Hurling League rounds on consecutive weeks. That will be a change and there are some changes to the format of the Division Three Hurling League.
“There will be automatic promotion for the division winners in the Allianz Hurling League in 2017, we have changes like that. All that had to be tweaked. If there are motions passed at Congress which was last February, obviously not all of them would be implemented or changed in the same Calendar year. They would have to be incorporated in.
“We have freed up some more time for clubs, but overall it is a hectic schedule. When everything is fitted into the jigsaw there is little time for manoeuvre.
“The Celtic Challenge, the new Under 17 Hurling Development competition which started off during 2016 and was very successful, that is going to be tweaked a bit by the organisers, we have to fit that in as well. There is also provision for the Under 17 competition which is a special one off competition to facilitate the young lads that will miss out because of the minor being disbanded with the year after. Provision had to be made for that, but they are only minor things really. There is no huge difficulty incorporating them once you have good time, it just takes a bit of planning.”
Former Chairman of the Cavan County Board Cartwright believes the document ‘is the foundation because all of the other schedules follow on from it’ and enables County Boards to finalise their own plans. “The GAA works on a National, Provincial, County, and Club level so there are a lot of fixtures involved from an All-Ireland Final at the highest level right down to each county and the fixtures there right down to Junior.
“The provinces and counties produce their own fixtures plan, but they follow the lead of the Central schedule from Croke Park.
"We consult with other GAA committees, Post Primary, Third Level. Another important component we consult with especially for the main fixtures in the League and in the summer time are television broadcasters.
“They like to televise two games each Saturday night in the National Leagues, we have to plan our games for that. For the summertime we can't make decisions about times for the qualifiers now, but we have to work with them. The fixtures do have to dovetail.”
The fixtures for Round 1 of the Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cups were made by Central Council on Saturday. They are as follows.
Christy Ring Cup
Mayo v Kildare
Down v Roscommon
Carlow v Antrim
Wicklow v London
Nicky Rackard Cup
Louth v Derry
Donegal v Armagh
Monaghan v Tyrone