One of the concerns that has emerged with the decision to start the National Leagues in January was whether this would spell the end of the pre-season competitions.
Admittedly, there won’t be many tears shed with the loss of the McGrath Cup of FBD Insurance League, but many top inter-county stars got their first taste of top-level action in these competitions.
They are a chance for fringe players to force their way into the squad, an opportunity for ‘good club players’ to prove themselves at the next level and while the level of football and hurling on show wasn’t always the best, there was an excitement in these tournaments as they meant the beginning of a new season.
However, with fixtures released by the Leinster Council are anything to go by, the early start to the league will wreak havoc with these pre-season competitions.
Writing in the Irish Independent, Martin Breheny has revealed that the O’Byrne Cup will start in December – with the opening round taking place five days after Christmas.
Tighter scheduling at inter-county level, which includes starting the Allianz Leagues on the last weekend in January next year, has prompted the earlier start for the Bord na Móna O’Byrne Cup.
It’s due to have its first round of games on Saturday, December 30, followed by the second and third rounds on January 3 and 7 respectively.
The GAA’s fixture makers are always trying to get the balance between player burn-out, while also making sure they get enough top-quality games.
While this is a near-impossible task, one gets the feeling that this won’t be a popular move.