County clashes postponed

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

County clashes postponed thumbnailCavans Manager Mattie McGleehan enters pitchside at Healy Pk Before the match is called off.

IT WAS dismay and disappointment for two teams and their legions of supporters as torrential rain forced the postponement of Tyrone's National Football League Division One clash with Cavan at Healy Park.

A waterlogged pitch left Meath referee David Gough with no option but to call the game off. It will be played on the weekend after next.

But there was anger at the timing of the pitch inspection, which took place just over an hour before the scheduled throw-in time on Sunday afternoon.

Supporters of both counties had been arriving at the venue in large numbers, and the Cavan team was also in the stadium, awaiting news of the pitch inspection, when the referee arrived.

Referee Gough began his inspection at 1.22pm, and within four minutes had declared the pitch unplayable.

“I walked the length of the pitch, and there's at least seven visible puddles on it but about 40 per cent of the pitch is under water," he said.

“It's what you can't see is just as dangerous as what is there, so it would be unsafe for any of the players to be playing on it.

“The safety of the players is paramount here today, so we just call it off and leave it for Croke Park to make the decision on when they will replay the game."

Healy Park was due to have staged a double bill, with the Tyrone hurlers taking on Ulster neighbours Donegal in an NHL Division 3A tie.

It was decided by local officials at an early stage that the pitch would be unable to take both games, so the hurling tie was switched to nearby Carrickmore.

But that too was deemed unplayable, and the hurlers were also left to kick their heels, with no action.

Healy Park had been considered playable up until 10am, but heavy and constant rain over the next two hours saw stretches of water quickly develop.

“Up as far as ten o'clock this morning, it looked to all systems go, and the club here were confident that they could have taken two games," said Tyrone PRO Eunan Lindsay.

“But the strength and the length of the shower left puddles on the pitch in several places, and it was just a case of, in the interest of player safety, David Gough made the right decision."

The ground has a history of susceptibility to adverse weather conditions, and last October, the Tyrone SFC final replay between Killyclogher and Coalisland was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch.

“To be fair, Omagh have done an awful lot of remedial work on the pitch since that, and even with the forecast, there was enough rain on Wednesday and Thursday, and the pitch was standing up to it," Lindsay added.

“It was just how heavy the rain was and how much fell in a short space of time.

“I think the only option would be that weekend, because of the one-week gap between the final round of games and the National League final this year," said the Tyrone PRO.

“So that weekend of the 12th of March, whether it be the Saturday night or the Sunday, you would expect that's when it will take place."

Meanwhile, if Tyrone win the Ulster Football Championship title next year, or even reach the provincial final, they will enter a new-look 'Super-8' play-off system which will replace the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

A round-robin system at the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final stage will be introduced next year after the so-called 'Super 8' motion was passed by a margin of 76%-24% at GAA Congress..

Cork and the GPA were the only speakers against the controversial Motion 4, while Kerry, Meath, Galway, Donegal, Mayo, Monaghan and former GAA president Sean Kelly all spoke in favour of its introduction.

So one-sided was the debate that it prompted GAA president Aogan O Fearghail to ask if any of the delegates at Croke Park would like to speak against the motion.

The new structure will see the introduction of two four-team groups to replace the All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals for the next three years.

The groupings in year one will be as follows:

Group 1 - Munster provincial winner, Connacht provincial winner, Ulster runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4 of the qualifiers, Leinster runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4.

Group 2 - Ulster provincial winner, Leinster provincial winner, Munster runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4 for the qualifiers, Connacht runner-up or team that defeats them in round 4.

The groups in the succeeding years will be determined by Central Council. Each team will play one home match, one away match, and one match at Croke Park.

In the All-Ireland semi-finals, the Group 1 quarter-final winner will play the Group 2 quarter-final runner-up, and the Group 2 quarter-final winner will play the Group 1 quarter-final runner-up. The All-Ireland semi-finals will both be played over the one weekend.

A rule to stop players, team management or match officials from betting on games in which they are involved has been voted in by a large majority at Congress.

The new rule will prohibit players, team management, or match officials involved in a game from betting on the outcome of any aspect of the game concerned. To do so will be 'discrediting the Association'.

The minimum sanction a member will be face for this offence will be an eight-week suspension. Debarment and expulsion from the Association may also be considered. If a team or unit is in breach of this rule an eight-week suspension is also the minimum sanction, though a fine, disqualification, and expulsion from the Association may also be considered.

Both the All-Ireland football and hurling finals will be played in August for three years from 2018 to 2020.

The motion, which aims to free up more time for club activity, was passed by a margin of 78-22 per cent.

It will be the first time since 1903 that the GAA's showpiece games will be played before September.

The likely date for next year's All-Ireland SHC final is 13th August, while the All-Ireland SFC final is set to be played on 27th August. Cork secretary Frank Murphy spoke against the motion, pointing out that it would be difficult for his county board to schedule club games during the summer with so many dual players involved.

Meanwhile, there was 91 per cent support for a motion calling for replays in all championship matches other than provincial and All-Ireland finals to be scrapped. It will also be introduced on a three-year experimental basis.


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