A pre-season competition marred by walkovers and missed fixtures, the O’Byrne Cup will proceed this year without a semi-final stage.
Kildare and Louth had opted out of games earlier this week, with Carlow too electing not to fulfil their dead-rubber fixture against Laois this weekend with that game originally postponed due to a waterlogged Stradbally pitch. Kildare withdrew from their clash with Westmeath earlier in the week with both sides unable to advance to the knockout rounds, Louth also electing not to play their clash with Wexford having done enough to secure a spot in the knockouts.
Offaly manager Liam Kearns had also questioned the integrity of the competition this week with the rising number of cancelled games and now Leinster GAA appear to be in agreement. A short statement released to media on Friday afternoon confirmed that with Offaly electing not to contest this weekend’s semi-final against Louth, the semi-final stage will be scrapped and send Louth straight to a final a week from Saturday.
“It is with regret that Comhairle Laighean has accepted the decision of Offaly County Committee not to fulfil this weekend’s O’Byrne Cup Semi Final fixture against Louth.”
“On the back of three similar walkovers, and despite counties having been informed of the proposed structure as far back as November, the integrity of the competition has now been diminished. In future, counties will have to give serious consideration to their fixture schedule before committing to participating.”
“The O’Byrne Cup Final will now take place next Saturday 21st of January between Longford and Louth, in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park at 2pm.”
While the Keogh Cup and Walsh Cup continue – and we’ll have full coverage of Kilkenny v Laois this weekend – the dropouts in this year’s O’Byrne Cup will raise questions about the value of the competition both to the province and those taking part. For some, the competitive nature of the preseason structure provides the ideal proving ground to blood new players and systems before heading into the league, for others there seems to be an appearance of “sure we’re not going to win anything here, so let’s not play” and instead concentrate on more training, strength and conditioning or intra-squad games.
With the Sigerson Cup also underway, a number of inter-county players are also tied up until the beginning of the Allianz League, with Sigerson commitments included in Carlow’s reasoning for opting against playing Laois tomorrow.