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Opinion: Waterford Fixture Mess Could Have Easily Been Avoided

Earlier this week, the Waterford county board announced that the county would not be fielding a representative in the Munster Club SFC this year.

First reported by Waterford Local Radio, the back-log of fixtures in the south-east has occurred mainly because of the Deise’s run to the All-Ireland hurling final, with little to no club activity going on in the summer months.

By the first Sunday in September, there had only been two rounds of the county’s senior hurling championship played. Now the board has made the decision to put the football championship on ice as the SHC ploughs ahead over the next five weeks or so.

The Waterford county board made a conscious decision – that they wanted a team in the Munster SHC – even if it came at the expense of the football champions getting to play in the provincial championship.

With two rounds left in the group stage, there are five more match-days left in the championship – and that is barring any replays.

The Waterford hurling champions are down to play the Tipp champions on October 22. The football representatives were supposed to face the Cork champions seven days later.

It is possible that if the county board rotated weekends, i.e. played hurling one weekend and football the next, then neither competition would be finished by the deadline.

In one sense they had to make a choice and choose hurling.

This should have been flagged a long time ago, however. Just last year, Waterford had no football teams in the intermediate or junior Munster Championships as the local competitions were not complete on time.

It was always a possibility that Waterford would make the All-Ireland final – they were beaten in the last four in 2015 and 2016 after all. The fact that the county board were seemingly not ready for this is farcical to say the least.

There was a lot made last year when the players body the Club Players Association was founded. Could they do more about this?

Just a single tweet to an article on the situation in Waterford adding: “Another example of fixture chaos that is completely avoidable with a national fixture plan in place.”

But is this a national issue, or one that people in Waterford could have sorted.

If they really have the everyday club player at heart, they shouldn’t be caught flat-footed like this. They should have seen this situation coming weeks ago.

That body is yet to get a major win under its belt and this would have been a great time for them to step up. The biggest criticism of the Gaelic Players Association and Dessie Farrell, who was prominent in the group’s rise was that it became an elitist organisation, according to critics.

Standing up for the club footballers of Waterford would have meant that the CPA could have never got that title chucked at them.

Earlier this month, the CPA once again vowed to continue their attempt to fore the GAA to fix the fixtures”.

This is possible, but you have to be pro-active. You have to flag these scenarios and not wait for them to pop up.

The CPA also put out a survey where they wanted to know whether the body should protest the next Congress.

However, while the club season doesn’t run as smoothly as it should, this is a situation that should be tackled on a county-by-county basis.

This weekend sees county hurling semi-finals in Limerick, Tipperary and Clare, while the quarter-finals are on in Cork.

All that without a national fixture plan.

These counties will all have a champion to put forward into the Munster Championship as they do almost every year.

Admittedly, Waterford were in the All-Ireland Championship longer than these teams but they shouldn’t been two rounds away from the knock-out stages.

We saw a situation last year when a Munster JHC game descended into a farce as one side was under-strength due to a stag party booked months in advance and no alternative date could be found.

These are the situations that the CPA have to fix. Their raison d’etre is to help the club player and the situations that arise all over the country on a consistent basis.

At this stage, it is too late to do anything other than complain, but going forward, this is where the CPA have to show that they are a worthwhile organisation.

Interestingly, during the week, the Waterford county board also announced that they want to keep the structure of the All-Ireland SHC to stay the same.

If the All-Ireland Championship is going to stay the same, then it is Waterford and their fixture-makers who are going to have to change how they operate, change how they go about planning the fixtures.

The Club Players Association will be an important voice in the coming years in the GAA.

And it is imperative that the CPA act as a watch-dog to ensure that the change does occur.

Joel Slattery, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team. If you would like to join the team, drop us an email at write@punditarena.com.