How do you fix a problem like the GAA fixture schedule?
The answer… you can’t, because for every Gael that would love to see the club championship series rattled off within a calendar year, another will tell you it’s sacrilege to move the All-Ireland senior club finals away from St. Patrick’s Day.
Take the case of Corofin’s Kieran Fitzgerald who made his feelings known last week that the club series should be wrapped up before Christmas so to avoid a repeat of the fixture clash that meant his clubmate Kieran Molloy had to play two games in a day last year between the Sigerson Cup final and All-Ireland club semi-final.
“Our provincial final finished in mid-November. Why not play the All-Ireland semi-final two weeks later and maybe the final a week or 10 days before Christmas under lights in Croke Park?” he said.
“Everything would be done and dusted before Christmas rather than teams slogging away through bad pitches and whatnot, nearly two and a half months to play 60 minutes of football in mid-February.”
Whilst it makes sense to have everything wrapped up before the turn of the year, in the case of Mullinalaghta’s Leinster success, having an eight-week break between a provincial final and an All-Ireland semi-final was perfect according to Shane Mulligan.
“Thankfully you had that break. The Leinster final was the eighth of December so Christmas finished it up really. Once you got through Christmas it all died down so January was back to training and focus the minds,” Mulligan said.
“It was heavy going for a while. You were here, there and everywhere after that. Getting to schools and medal presentations, stuff like that, so lads were happy to get back to training.
“There’s a nice bit of work done. It’s trying to get the balance right because the weather has changed, the pitches have got heavy. You’re trying to stay fresh without doing too much.
“It’s a really good feeling around training and it’s great to be there in the last four.”
Mullinalaghta were the flavour of the month following their shock defeat of Kilmacud Crokes in December. Mulligan admits it was a very surreal and enjoyable period for everyone, but they are happy now that the moment has passed and they can focus on Saturday’s encounter.
“It was all very surreal there after the Leinster final. We had a good laugh about it. When we got home to Mullinalaghta, the phones were hopping in the days after,” he said.
“The President wrote to us, Leo Varadkar wrote to us. Next thing the Late Late were on and wanted us to come on. The team WhatsApp was hopping. It was good sport and a great way to celebrate it.
“Thankfully, it’s all settled down now a little bit. It’s back to the grindstone and preparing for Saturday.”
The Longford champions go into Saturday’s encounter in Thurles once again as huge underdogs against Kerry’s Dr Crokes.
The underdog tag has suited Mullinalaghata so far according to Mulligan, therefore they aren’t too bothered by what the experts may be saying in the build-up to the weekend.
“We don’t find ourselves in a situation we haven’t found ourselves in before. We’re going in as underdogs but that’s probably a tag we’ve had for 99% of the matches we went into. We’ll be approaching it the same way, looking after our own things we can control and see where it takes us.” said Mulligan.
“We’ll try make sure we get our own lads to deliver their own performance on the day, because we’re not going to go and say, ‘Let’s park the bus and try see how we get on.’ We’re going to be going to try and deliver our own performance and be as competitive as we can.”