SLAUGHTNEIL’S PROGRESS TO an AIB All-Ireland senior club football final – and their presence in the hurling semi-final against Cuala on 25 February – has left GAA fixtures-makers with a sizeable potential headache to consider.
Should Derry stars Slaughtneil advance to the hurling decider, it will scupper plans for the traditional St Patrick’s Day double-header, when the club champions in both codes are normally crowned.
There’s a huge crossover between the Slaughtneil football and hurling squads, as eight players who started in last Saturday’s victory over St Vincent’s in the football lined out against Loughgiel Shamrocks in the Ulster club hurling final back in October.
The double dream remains very much alive for Brendan Rodgers, Karl McKaigue, Paul McNeill, Chrissy McKaigue, Shane McGuigan, Meehaul McGrath, Sé McGuigan and Cormac O’Doherty, while the club’s senior camogie team will contest an All-Ireland final against Sarsfields at GAA HQ on 5 March.
Slaughtneil are also preparing for an All-Ireland senior camogie club final.
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But what will the GAA do if Slaughtneil see off Cuala to book a place in the hurling decider?
It’s a question that has exercised the minds of GAA top brass and while a plan is believed to be in place, Croke Park will not reveal it unless Slaughtneil win the hurling clash with the Dublin and Leinster representatives.
For the semi-finals, Slaughtneil were granted a fortnight’s space between football and hurling.
The football went ahead at the weekend and Slaughtneil were handed a fortnight to prepare for the hurling.
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Chrissy McKeigue captained Slaughtneil to Ulster senior club hurling glory last October.
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If the same applies for the finals, and Slaughtneil get there of course, the footballers could be asked to play Dr. Crokes on the traditional date, 17 March, with the hurling decider pushed back by a fortnight.
On the Croke Park season fixtures list, there’s a Sunday free on 2 April, unless it’s decided to book in the hurling alongside the Hogan Cup and Paddy Drummond Cup schools’ football finals on the previous day.
But if the GAA decide to play the hurling first, and leave the football for a later date, that could spell bad news for the Kerry and Derry senior footballers at the business end of the League campaign.
Colm ‘Gooch’ Cooper and Dr. Crokes will provide the All-Ireland club football final opposition for Slaughtneil.
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A by-product of that scenario is that we might not learn the identity of Kerry’s senior football captain for the 2017 campaign until early April, with Dr. Crokes set to nominate their preferred man when their season ends.
Just once before has a club contested both the senior football and hurling club finals – and that was Cork’s St Finbarr’s back in 1981.
On 17 May, 1981, St Finbarr’s lost out to Kilkenny’s Ballyhale Shamrocks by 1-11 to 1-15 in the hurling final but the club bounced back to claim football glory by defeating Meath outfit Walterstown in the big ball decider, which was played at Croke Park on 31 May.
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