ALL ACTION Mayo ladies star Sarah Rowe, pictured here in action for her club Kikmoremoy, is one of the players who could end up playing two Mayo Intermediate club championship matches next weekend. Pic: James Wright Photography
THE Mayo LGFA have defended their decision to schedule both the County Intermediate club football championship semi-finals and final to be played out in the space of less than 48 hours next weekend.
Kilmovee Shamrocks will take on Claremorris on Friday evening (7pm) in the first semi-final of a double-header at the Connacht GAA Centre of Excellence in Bekan, followed by the meeting of Kilmoremoy and Charlestown at 8.30pm.
The two winning teams will then tog out again to contest the final on Sunday at 2.30pm at a venue to be confirmed — sparking concerns about player welfare for the footballers affected.
Some of the teams concerned only played one competitive game in 16 weeks between May 12 and September 1.
The scheduling of club matches has led to some criticism of the Mayo LGFA on social media, while The Mayo News also spoke to a number of affected players and managers last week who were unhappy with the demands being placed on the teams involved.
However, when contacted by The Mayo News last night (Monday), a spokesperson for the Mayo LGFA defended their decision to fix the semi-finals and final for next weekend, saying that they were left with no alternative due to the Connacht Intermediate club championship starting the following weekend — September 28/29.
The spokesperson said it was a ‘really unfortunate situation’ for the club players and managers affected, and that ‘lessons will be learned’ on the Mayo Ladies’ County Board’s behalf to avoid a similar situation arising again in 2020.
They added that a number of factors had contributed to the fixtures crisis, including the fact that some players from the teams involved had sat their Leaving Certificate exams in June; the Mayo ladies’ senior team’s championship run to the All-Ireland semi-final; and the national LGFA governing body’s rule that prevented any adult games being played last weekend due to the All-Ireland Ladies Senior, Intermediate and Junior Finals taking place at Croke Park.
The Mayo LGFA fixtures committee held a meeting last Friday evening in The TF Royal Theatre, Castlebar and invited all Mayo club managers to attend and discuss any issues arising from the fixtures that had been scheduled.
The Mayo LGFA spokesperson also said that there was an option for clubs to play their semi-final any day this week before Friday, but that the option had not been not exercised by the clubs.
HOWEVER, being asked to play two championship games in less than 48 hours next weekend has angered club players and officials alike.
A number of those involved in the upcoming semi-finals told The Mayo News that they were ‘deeply frustrated and angry’ about the situation.
However, they declined to speak ‘on the record’ about the issue.
One manager who attended last Friday night’s Mayo LGFA fixtures committee meeting in Castlebar claimed that it would have been ‘logistically very difficult’ to play a championship game midweek at such short notice due to so many of their players not living locally, as well as the financial burden it would place on both clubs and players.
He said there was an overwhelming sense of ‘frustration in the room’ for managers around the lack of competitive games this year, which has left them disheartened with some of the competitions.
‘No competitive games’
ONE club player also told this newspaper that some of her team-mates have already expressed their intentions to ‘not play club football next year’ due to the fact that they have gone so long without playing games, only to have two matches now potentially pencilled in for one weekend.
She also said that the Mayo LGFA Intermediate club championship had been scheduled to begin on July 7 last, with many players booking holidays around them dates.
However, this round of games had then been rescheduled to September 1 due to the Mayo senior team’s involvement in the Connacht Final replay and subsequent championship games.
The club in question has played only one competitive league match since May.
Mayo LGFA did introduce a ‘Memorial League’ as a way of providing non-county players with competitive football throughout the summer.
But, according to one player involved, the reality was much different, as some teams played with low numbers and used goalposts that weren’t adult or full-size.
Some of the club players’ frustrations also seems to stem from the fact that Mayo’s inter-county schedule meant that dates changed on the original club calendar schedule.
‘Of course we appreciate the difficulties facing the fixtures committee [which includes Moy Davitts goalkeeper Emma Galligan as secretary], and the positives of success for the Mayo senior team, the unpredictability of the club calendar is driving players away from the game’ remarked one club player.
The Mayo LGFA spokesperson did confirm that a request from Mayo senior manager Peter Leahy to postpone any club activity two weeks prior to the All-Ireland semi-final against Galway was accepted by club delegates at a County Board meeting.
The original date for Intermediate championship games in July had to be changed after Mayo’s drawn Connacht Final with Galway in MacHale Park.
The Connacht Intermediate club championship quarter-final involving the Mayo champions is scheduled for Sunday, September 29.