Tipperary will have many days of action in May and early June

Thursday, 16 November 2017

TIPPERARY hurlers and footballers will have a very busy schedule in May of 2018 judging by the new GAA National Fixture plan which was produced last week.
The new National Fixture plan comes about as a result of the decision made by special congress at the end of September, when instead of a straight knockout system the Munster championship will now be run on a round robin basis. The Leinster hurling championship will be similar with champions Galway joining Kilkenny, Wexford, Dublin and Offaly. Both championships will have an initial three year trial basis.
Other Leinster counties like Laois, Westmeath, Carlow Antrim and Kerry will be involved in Tier two of the championship where the top two teams will play a final. From there the two finalists will take on the third best teams in the respective Munster and Leinster championships in a preliminary quarter final tie. The winners will take on the provincial runners up for the quarter final proper.
The All-Ireland final will be played on a new date on Sunday August 19, two weeks earlier than the customary date.
The new round robin series will be eagerly anticipated by hurling followers. Michael Ryan's men will commence their championship run on Sunday May 20, when they face Limerick in the Gaelic Grounds. Anytime, Tipp travel to the Gaelic Grounds is never easy as recent championship games against Limerick will testify.
Tipp have home advantage in round 2 the following Sunday for the visit of Cork the current Munster champions. A daunting task for either team whether the game is played in Semple Stadium or Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Walsh Park is the planned visit for the third round game against All-Ireland runners up Waterford on Sunday June 3. Just imagine if Tipp have lost the first two games the Walsh Park clash will have a whole new meaning and the game will test the 17,000 capacity of Walsh Park. The race for tickets would be a hot indeed reminiscent of the old days. Tipp's last championship visit to Walsh Park was in 1995 when Tipp won by 1-14 to 1-11.
Round 4 will bring Tipp back to Semple Stadium for the clash of Clare in what could be a decision making game where the losing team could make their exit from the championship.
July 1 is the date for the Munster hurling final and to reach the final, Tipp will have to finish first or second in the group. Indeed such is the competiveness of the Munster championship that a county could lose the four games very narrowly and be out of championship action on June 17 and in Tipperary's case on June 10 as they have a bye in round five.
Meanwhile Tipperary footballers will play their first game; a quarter final clash with Waterford on Saturday May 19, on the eve of Tipp's first hurling game against Limerick. If Tipp win that football game they will face Cork on Saturday June 2 in the Munster semi final at Semple Stadium on the eve of Tipp's hurling visit to Walsh Park. The Munster football final is planned for Saturday June 23.
The schedule will test Tipp hurlers and footballers no doubt.
Allianz Hurling and Football Leagues
Don't forget, that prior to the championship both sides have their respective league campaigns.
The hurlers will play their first round against Clare in Cusack Park Ennis on Sunday January 28. They face Waterford at home on Saturday February 3 with their next game on Saturday February 17 at home to Wexford. The clash with Kilkenny is planned for Sunday February 25 at Nowlan Park while the visit of Cork comes one week later at Semple Stadium.
The Allianz Hurling league semi final is fixed for Sunday March 11 with the final planned for Saturday March 25 or one day later if Tipp are to face Kilkenny in the decider.
Tipperary footballers have a tough assignment as they take on seven teams in Division 2. With Tipp manager Liam Kearns deciding that Tipp will not contest the McGrath Cup his charges will play their opening league game on Saturday January 27 against Cork at Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
In round 2 the opposition is at home to Roscommon on February 4.
Round 3 gives Tipp the chance to travel the short distance to Cusack Park, Ennis for a clash with Clare on the February 11. Two weeks later, Meath will come to Semple stadium for round 4 while one week later it will be the turn of Louth to come south.
Round 6 sees Tipp travel up to Newry for the clash with Down before the final round is another trip up north, this time to Kingspan Breffni Park for the clash with Cavan.
It will be a tough few weeks for the footballers in a division that includes three counties (Meath Cork and Down) that won the Sam Maguire in the last quarter of a century.
The top two teams will contest the final to be played on Sunday April 1.
When all is said and done the respective campaigns should produce exciting fare for players and supporters and nobody should take anything away from it. However the new format has its downfall not least the number of dead rubber games that might accrue especially in the Leinster campaign.
Another downfall is the treatment dished out to clubs who once again must accept they are the poor relations when it comes to the GAA.
It is envisaged that four weekends in April and the months of September and October will be free for club championship action. Let's not forget the clubs can play leagues or other structured competitions in the months of May, June, July and August when the provincial and all-Ireland championships are in full flow and county players won't be able to ply for their club.
As a result this leaves fourteen weeks free for club championship fare but in counties where dual club action is strong and in order to have club championships complete by the end of October to be ready for the provincial club championship - it seems that club championship action will be confined to a straight knockout basis.
Not the ideal set up for clubs who have to fork out €1,000 to enter championships in the first place. Watch this space.


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