The future and format of the O’Byrne Cup pre-season football competition are being called into question after two counties withdrew from Wednesday evening’s concluding fixtures of the round-robin stage.
Both teams are either unable or unwilling to field a team due to player commitments elsewhere, or progression already being assured.
With one win and one defeat, Kildare were already beyond qualification from Group A, manager Glenn Ryan deciding against fielding a team against Westmeath, who are also beyond qualification, a dead rubber of a game already.
According to a short statement from the Leinster Council, the game would not go ahead in Kinnegad as scheduled because “Kildare are unable to fulfil the fixture”.
It’s believed that with several Kildare players involved in upcoming Sigerson Cup fixtures, coupled with exam commitments, the last midweek fixture was of little use or interest, with the Allianz Football League fast approaching.
Earlier in the week, Louth also withdrew from their final round-robin fixture away to Wexford, originally scheduled for Hollymount. In that case, manager Mickey Harte decided the game was of no use or interest, given Louth have also progressed to the semi-final stage, following wins over Westmeath and Kildare, while Wexford are out.
It leaves just three fixtures in the final round-robin stage. Laois will host Carlow at Stradbally, Meath play Longford at Ashbourne, and Dublin host Offaly at Parnell Park (all 8pm). A win for Dublin over Offaly would ensure they would advance to the semi-final to play Louth on Sunday week.
Scenes of violent disorder involving players and spectators circulated on social media and received widespread coverage, including on television news
Elsewhere, the Leinster Council has handed down three 48-week suspensions to Wexford club Oulart The Ballagh following a meeting of the province’s hearings committee last Thursday. The matter relates to last November’s controversial provincial intermediate hurling quarter-final against Naomh Barróg of Dublin in Parnell Park.
Scenes of violent disorder involving players and spectators circulated on social media and received widespread coverage, including on television news. Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers, publicly criticised the behaviour, and called for a thorough investigation and strong sanctions against those responsible.
Initially, Leinster’s competitions control committee had recommended one suspension of 48 weeks, one of 36 and another of 24. The latter two players would have been better off accepting the proposed penalty, but opted instead for a hearing.
There were also other penalties handed down: two suspensions of 12 weeks and one of 16 weeks, which differed from the provincial CCC’s proposal of 24 weeks each. A fine on the club of €3,000 was confirmed, as well as a ban from Leinster club competitions the next time Oulart qualify for the junior, intermediate or senior provincial championship.
It is believed that the Wexford club will appeal the penalties. Two Naomh Barróg cases arising from the same fixture are due for hearing later this week.
It is hoped that Walsh Park will be ready to stage the Waterford club championship, but that tournament does not get underway until July
Meanwhile, it was confirmed that redevelopment works at Walsh Park will cost Waterford home advantage for the upcoming intercounty season, with scheduled league and championship matches set to be relocated.
Davy Fitzgerald’s panel was scheduled to play host to All-Ireland champions Limerick and Clare at the Waterford City venue in April/May but negotiations with Croke Park and the Munster Council are now underway in order to nominate a new venue.
Waterford are also set to host Dublin and Kilkenny in the Allianz League. It is hoped that Walsh Park will be ready to stage the Waterford club championship, but that tournament does not get underway until July.
“Waterford GAA are delighted to announce that the phase one Redevelopment of Walsh Park has commenced,” read a statement from the county board.
“Following extensive discussions with the contractors and in order to meet the strict requirements of the six-month work programme, Walsh Park will not be available to host the scheduled inter-county games. It is the intention that Walsh Park will be available to host Waterford club championship games from July.”
O’Byrne Cup SF round 3: Wexford v Louth, Hollymount – OFF; Westmeath v Kildare, Kinnegad – OFF; Laois v Carlow, Stradbally, 8pm; Meath v Longford, Ashbourne, 8pm; Dublin v Offaly, Parnell Park, 8pm
Dr McKenna Cup SF round 3: Derry v Tyrone, Owenbeg, 7.30pm; Donegal v Monaghan, Ballybofey, 7.30pm; Cavan v Armagh, Kingspan Breffni, 7.30pm
Connacht FBD FL semi-final: Sligo v Roscommon, NUIG Connacht Air Dome, 7.30pm
All-Ireland club IHC final: Monaleen (Limerick) v Tooreen (Mayo), Croke Park, 7pm – TG4
All-Ireland club JHC final: Ballygiblin (Cork) v Easkey (Sligo), Croke Park, 5pm – TG4
Connacht FBD FL semi-final: Mayo v Galway, NUIG Connacht Air Dome, 5.30pm
McGrath Cup SF round 3: Tipperary v Limerick, Templetuohy, 2pm
Walsh Cup SH round 2: Westmeath v Antrim, Abbottstown, 2pm
Dublin v Galway, Parnell Park, 5pm
All-Ireland club IFC final: Rathmore (Kerry) v Galbally Pearses (Tyrone), Croke Park, 3.30pm – TG4
All-Ireland club JFC final: Fossa (Kerry) v Stewartstown Harps (Tyrone), Croke Park, 1.30pm – TG4
O’Byrne Cup SF semi-finals (TBC)
Louth v Dublin or Offaly, TBC, TBC
McGrath Cup SF round 3: Clare v Cork, Cooraclare, 1.30pm
Dr McKenna Cup SF semi-finals (TBC)
Walsh Cup SH round 2: Laois v Kilkenny, Rathdowney, 2pm; Offaly v Wexford, Birr, 2pm
Munster SHL round 2: Clare v Waterford, Cusack Park, 1.30pm; Cork v Limerick, Páirc Uí Rinn, 2pm
Kehoe Cup round 3: Down v Carlow, Abbottstown, 2pm; Wicklow v Kildare, Aughrim, 2pm