Irish Independant article on Championship qualifiers

Players facing new burnout concerns


By Martin Breheny

Thursday May 08 2008

PLAYER burnout concerns will zoom back up the GAA agenda this summer as counties face their busiest championship schedule yet.

Some counties could face four major games in 22 days in football while the hurling schedule will also be hectic with four qualifier rounds and two All-Ireland quarter-finals over five successive weekends.

It also means that the provincial route towards All-Ireland glory will be much less demanding than a qualifier path, which places huge demands on players.

If any of the football qualifiers survive the four-game test and reach the All-Ireland semi-finals, they will be in action again two weeks later to complete a five-match programme between July 19 and August 24.

The reason for the hectic football programme is that the qualifiers won’t start until July 19, two weeks later than last year.

That means that any first-round qualifier team that reaches the quarter-finals faces four games in 22 days between July 19 and August 10. There was a two-week gap between the final qualifier round and the quarter-finals last year.

Extra-time applies in qualifier games but scheduling problems will arise if games have to be replayed. It will be equally busy in hurling, where the four qualifier rounds (there are no round robin games this year) will be played on successive weekends between June 29 and July 19, followed eight days later by the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Waterford complained of fatigue after losing to Limerick in last year’s All-Ireland hurling semi-final as it was their third major game in 14 days, following a drawn and replayed quarter-final showdown with Cork.

The schedule is at its tightest ever in July/ August and major problems could arise if even a few games ended level. Apart from that, there’s the question of player burnout, a topic that has been very much at the forefront of GAA discussions recently.

A desire to leave as much room as possible for club games is the reason for the contracted qualifier series, especially in football. All the provincial semi-finals are due to be completed by June 29, making it possible to start the qualifiers much earlier than July 19.

The late start means that the losers of next Sunday’s Longford-Westmeath Leinster first tie will have to wait 10 weeks for their first-round qualifier while four other provincial first-round losers from the following Sunday face a nine-week delay.

While some counties face a very busy programme, it will be quieter than usual for the Leinster and Munster hurling winners who, for the first time since 2004, will head straight into the All-Ireland semi-finals.

They have had to play quarter-final games over the past three seasons but have been restored to a very privileged position.

There will be only two quarter-finals this year, featuring the beaten Leinster and Munster finalists against the two survivors from the qualifiers.

Dan Shanahan is due to get the results of scans on a knee injury today which could rule him out of Waterford’s Munster championship opener against Clare on June 1.

Shanahan twisted his knee in Lismore’s championship victory against Mount Sion last Sunday. Initial reports suggested that Shanahan would require keyhole surgery on damaged ligaments and there has been some local speculation that the player could be facing months on the sidelines.

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