The GAA’s higher education chairman says he can understand UCC manager Billy Morgan’s frustration with the new scheduling of the Sigerson Cup but admits there is not a lot that can be done to alleviate it.
Morgan condemned the earlier start to the competition and said the university’s preparations for their opening win over NUIG was severely impacted by it. UCC began last year’s competition only four days later although the return of the knock-out element has raised the stakes.
Higher Education committee chairman Michael Hyland appreciates where Morgan is coming from but says there was an onus to get the third level competitions finished earlier than previous years.
“He (Morgan) has been in every level of management from county to club to colleges so he sees it from all angles and you have to respect that. We’d all love more space for games but unfortunately this is the situation we find ourselves in.
“The pressures that are there with the National League now weren’t there before. It wasn’t starting as early or it wasn’t as important, certainly not for Division 2 and 3 teams as is the case now. Ten years ago, there weren’t the same pressures with junior and intermediate club competitions so it’s unfortunate in that way.
“This is traditionally our time of year but it is not our own anymore. We’re doing our best to try and keep part of it for us and at the same time we have shortened the calendar to alleviate pressure on elite players who are involved in the National League too. I can understand where he is coming from but we couldn’t play them any later.”
A member of the fixtures review committee, Hyland presented last year’s third level competitions scheduling to the body as well as a streamlined one, which they adopted. “That seemed to find a lot of favour with those present, finishing the football in the fifth or sixth weekend of the year and the hurling a week or two later.
“It was hoped that it would ensure the availability of players for our games notwithstanding the crossover with club games. There was an element of trial and error too as it was our first year doing it.”
However, Hyland confirmed the new schedule was backed months before it was agreed the U20 All-Ireland football championship would return to spring. “I didn’t think the U20 pre-season tournaments that have been staged this month would be kept. It’s been a major pressure point for the freshers football competition.”
Aside from Morgan’s remarks and the clash with the Sigerson Cup which compelled Donegal to withdraw from the McKenna Cup, Hyland reported a healthy start for the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups.
“Then we had to contend with players coming back from (inter-county) team holidays and you’re going to have that with those who are successful.
“We’ll obviously be reviewing it but the crowds have been good and the exposure is pleasing. It’s great too when successful managers like John Kiely speak about the value he sees in his players being involved in the Fitzgibbon Cup.”