Scheduling is under fire again
Fixtures compilers cannot win; that’s an accepted fact. However hard they try to get things right, they will get few plaudits when they do and it’s a sad aspect of life that the brickbats will come flying in from all roads and directions whenever they inevitably get it wrong - such as they did bigtime when scheduling the most recent round of matches!
Alas, whilst I try my very best to have sympathy with them - not least because I have run the local snooker league for decades and thus am responsible for the compiling of fixtures and know what a thankless and impossible task it is in trying to please all of the people all of the time, sometimes there appears to be simply no acceptable excuse for the way clubs are treated.
Take last week as a classic example of this. The fixtures initially sent out had the games scheduled for Sunday night, the popular belief being that they were delayed from the usual afternoon slots because of the Eucharistic Congress in Croke Park. Why should that be, given that the GAA is a non-political and non-sectarian organisation?
But we are used to clubs having games scheduled to allow for First Holy Communion, Confirmation, Blessing of Graves, so that’s not really a big deal. So why then were they changed? Was it following complaints about people who wanted to go to Dublin, but felt unable to get back in time for games?
I don’t think so! According to a number of my more vocal complainants, it was because it was too close to the thirteen-day rule which prevents clubs from fielding county panellists ahead of inter-county championship matches. They claimed that management indicated that they would prefer games to be on Saturday night.
Then I got a text message from one of them, who ‘discovered’ that it was actually not a request from the county management - but an enforced change because the Ulster Council had brought forward the Ulster Semi-final match to Saturday evening, June 30.
Within two hours, another with strong views about the way the fixtures are being knocked about was on and being very critical about the situation.
“They mucked up in a big way because those games should never have been earmarked for Sunday at any time, day or night, because the Ulster Council set their championship dates in stone many months ago - and the semi-final which Tyrone was likely to be involved in was always going to be played on that Saturday night.
“So the big mistake was not realising that, which is a ridiculous blunder on their behalf” he claimed.
He did leave me with a question, however: “How does it come that the Clonoe-Eglish match was not in the first list or the subsequent list?”.
So I enquired from sources in both clubs - but neither could give me a possible explanation.
Then I noted that last week’s Eglish notes stated it was to be played on Tuesday, the county website also posting that information. Then, when the fixtures for this week came in, it was not scheduled. It was no longer on the website fixtures either. And it turns out that it was played on Sunday!
All very strange, methinks - but far from unusual, and it also begged the question as to what happened to a couple of other delayed games.
Clann na Gael v Derrytresk from mid-April, postponed I think due to a death, appears to be still awaiting a new date, while Derrytresk-Galbally and Pomeroy v Moy are now earmarked for Monday July 2.
And what about the Greencastle v Trillick match which did not take place quite a few weeks ago? It looks at though it’s also going to be played on Monday July 2 - which will be a critical decision day for both clubs, the poinst absolutely crucial for each of them.
Slotting it in on that date will mean they’ll both have to play three games in seven days because Wednesday July 4 has Greencastle at home to Clonoe and Trillick visiting Edendork, while Sunday 8th sees the St.Macartans visiting Carmen and the St.Patricks hosting Kildress! A tough ask of what?
Rumours at the time of the original postponement suggested it was to do with player burn-out! Then there was a suggestion that it was fixed for a Thursday night but that didn’t suit because of a clash with county training and when they wanted to switch it to another week night they were advised that county management would ‘prefer’ that no club games would be played on week nights because they wanted panel members to ‘focus on county training’.
I obviously don’t know if that is the explanation but, supposing it was to be the case, there’s really not a thing wrong with that. The managements are merely doing what is best for their teams, fighting their corners basically, which is what they are fully expected to do.
However, that shouldn’t mean that their every whim must be facilitated. When, or if, such requests are made, the decisions ought to be made on the basis of balance - taking into account what are the reasonable needs of the clubs and, most importanly of all, the majority of players and the vast army of volunteers who give of their time so willingly and thanklessly.
Yet the latter aspect of the whole scenario seems to have been ignored when the weekend matches were switched en masse to Saturday night.
There was already a complete round of U14 matches in the afternoon and hundreds of people involved with these games would also have been involved in the all-county league ties, thus finding a major problem unnecessarily thrust at them at ridiculously short notice.
Many folk will also have made plans to attend, or alternatively to watch on television, the Derry-Donegal championship match because, of course, there was obvious interest in this contest since the victors were set to face Tyrone in the semi-final at the end of the month.
Now let’s go back to the religious aspect of the equation. If there is some truth in the claim that the original change from Sunday afternoon was to facilitate a religious function over a hundred miles away, why was there no consideration given to the situation closer to home.
I’m referring, of course, to the saying of Mass in parishes right throughout this county on Saturday evenings. Did they spare even a fleeting thought to club members, officials and players whose Saturday night ritual incorporates this as an integral aspect?
Did they pause for a moment to think whether clubs whose grounds are located close to churches might be seriously inconvenienced by such a clash of ‘fixtures’. I’m thinking especially of clubs whereby those attending matches would normally be faciliated with car-parking in church grounds - and vice versa.
As I said, I sympathise greatly with fixtures-makers, much as I do with referees. They are in pretty much a no-win position. But that doesn’t mean that they could not do better in their decision-making and at least be able to justify how judgements are reached.
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Weather for Dungannon
Monday 20 May 2013
Temperature: 7 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 16 mph
Wind direction: North
Temperature: 8 C to 15 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: North