The possibility that the GAA might fix a senior championship game for a Friday night has been on the horizon for some time.
Now we know that history will be made on Friday night next when Carlow entertains neighbours Laois in the first round of the Football Qualifiers.
The reaction to the fixing of the game on a Friday night has been interesting. First into the breach to condemn the decision was the GPA and was quickly followed by a couple of team managers.
When I think back to the time that the live televising of games became a regular feature of the GAA championship season, I remember the furore created and the outcry that it would ruin the games. It has turned out to be very different.
The reality is that Friday night football (or hurling) games will be rare, that is if it ever gets out of the starting blocks. The signs now do not look too promising judging by last week’s reaction to the fixture.
When the idea of a Friday night game was first mooted, it was stated unequivocally that it could only be feasible if the participants were in close proximity to each other. Such is the case on Friday night.
The argument against Friday night championship games is that players would have difficulty getting off work.
Friday games – a rare event
It is a fair point, but as such games would be very rare, I do not believe employers would have a problem releasing players well in advance of the starting time. To say that players need to miss a full day’s work is being alarmist.
This is an experiment and it just might work in some instances. The GAA is regularly slated for not being innovative, so it deserves praise for this initiative.
Those who talked about players having to be compensated for taking time-off are well aware that this is a non-runner. If payments become a requirement, the experiment will end up being a one-game wonder. This is a route the GAA will never contemplate.
I have no idea if any contact was made with Laois and Carlow prior to the decision, but I would be surprised if their views were not sought.
The size of the attendance in Dr. Cullen Park on Friday will be interesting. The reality is that people have other activities on Saturdays and Sundays. Many may be delighted to see the game played on Friday.
Time will tell if the venture has a future. The signs may not look great judging by the comments from some quarters, but GAA President Liam O’Neill is right to ask supporters to give it a chance. More than just a Friday night game was exercising the mind of one team manager last week when he talked about club games interfering with the preparation of his inter-county team.
It is to the credit of the County Board in question that they have continued with their club programme.
However, there is another county which has brought its games programme to a halt and Croke Park has demanded an enquiry. Team selections in match programmes have also been in the headlines recently and I am afraid the GAA may have lost that argument.
The notion of fining countries for submitting selections which are different from the match day line out will not work.
But some solution is required because the GAA is losing heavily in the PR arena with minimal coverage of upcoming games prior to match day.