Tyrone GAA requests fixture schedule change ahead of bumper Saturday for county

Fixture planners at Croke Park have sparked anger in Tyrone over a clash of two important games this weekend.

The county’s U20 footballers face Kildare in the All-Ireland final at 5pm on Saturday in Carrick-on-Shannon, while the Red Hand hurlers are in action against Donegal in what is essentially an All-Ireland semi-final more than 70 miles away in Carrickmore, just an hour and a half earlier.

Paul Devlin’s U20 side is seeking a first title at this level to add to Tyrone’s five All-Ireland U21 triumphs, while a win for Michael McShane’s hurlers will take them to Croke Park for a second successive appearance in the Nickey Rackard Cup final.

Supporters of both codes will have to make a choice over which of these crunch games to attend, while GAA diehards face an additional dilemma due to the Tyrone Ladies’ appearance in the Ulster Intermediate Football Championship final against Down later on Saturday evening.

Tyrone GAA chiefs have submitted a request to the GAA for a change to the fixtures scheduling affecting the county.

“Compromise is always a key word in any difficulties that arise, and if there’s a willingness or a meeting of minds to meet halfway, then that’s ultimately the best outcome,” said county PRO Eugene McConnell.

“I know the request has gone in for them to look at re-scheduling the timings so as to allow people try to get to both occasions.

“So it’s with the powers to be to see if they will accede to those suggestions.

“It’s one of those things, that when you’re a successful county, and you want to promote hurling and football, there sometimes has to be a halfway approach to allow that to happen for a county like Tyrone that is really doing its utmost to try and raise the profile of hurling.

“It’s a massive game for the hurlers and it’s an All-Ireland final for the U20s, two extremely important games, and I think if everybody is of the right mindset, there should be some degree of compromise to allow people to try to get to both games.”

GAA policy of fixing all games simultaneously in the final round of a competition means the three Rackard Cup ties will throw in at 3.30, but flexibility in this case is possible, as the outcome of the Tyrone-Donegal game will have no impact on implications arising from either of the other two.

The timing of the U20 final is in all likelihood heavily influenced by TV scheduling, with the match to be broadcast live by TG4.

McConnell said he empathises with the frustration of those who dearly want to follow their county in both of Saturday’s massive games.

“People want to follow their county in both codes, and in a situation where you have to make choices, it causes consternation.

“It’s unfair, but seemingly these fixtures where already planned, and when they were setting them out, they didn’t know who was going to be in them.

“But it’s a tight schedule trying to get games completed, and it has this knock-on effect in trying to complete a variety of competitions, and all fighting for the space to allow them to do that.

“It’s frustrating and an unfortunate scenario with the way the condensed season is at the minute.

“I know from a PRO’s point of view it’s not ideal, trying to be in two places at the one time and to try and promote and highlight both codes presents major difficulties.

“It’s not a nice place to be and I totally agree with the sentiment that’s being expressed out there.”

And the choice of venue for the All-Ireland decider is another source of puzzlement and disquiet, with both Tyrone and Kildare being sent on a journey west to Pairc Sean MacDiarmada.

While Carrick-on-Shannon represents a neutral province, a more geographically convenient ground such as Parnell Park, Cavan or Newry would make more logistical sense.

Kingspan Breffni Park would offer Tyrone the opportunity to play the game in their home province of Ulster, but would in effect be of greater advantage to Leinster opponents Kildare.

They played their All-Ireland semi-final against Sligo at the venue, while it would be a first appearance for the Red Hands on the Cavan ground.

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