In the year 2023, pre-season inter-county competitions seem to be more of a burden than a benefit for many counties.
Sure, they give teams the opportunity to test out some new players, but the packed schedule at this time of year means many are not that enthusiastic about the prospect of playing three or four games in what is essentially a meaningless event. That is especially true when third level competitions are also underway at the moment.
The O'Byrne Cup has been particularly impacted this month, with a number of scheduled fixture in the tournament not going ahead as planned. It descended into further farce today with the news that Offaly had pulled out of this weekend's semi-final against Louth.
This move had been somewhat expected, with Offaly manager Liam Kearns saying the integrity of the competition should be under question after Louth pulled out of a dead rubber game against Wexford earlier this week. This meant that they had far more rest and preparation time in comparison to his team.
In a statement released earlier today, Offaly explained their reasoning for pulling out of the game.
Offaly GAA have a large number of players playing Sigerson Cup next week and we also have a number of injured and sick players.
Following consultation between team management, players and County Board, we agreed that we could not field a team without asking a large number of players to play their third match in eight days in current conditions. Medical and player welfare advice was very much against that happening.
Offaly GAA, our team management and players are fully committed to all competitions we enter and have really enjoyed the O'Byrne Cup challenge over the past week. However, we cannot field a team this weekend without putting some of our players at risk of injury. We will commence a busy schedule of games in the National League on January 29 next and this remains our primary focus at this time.
Louth will now receive a buy to the final.
Leinster Council unhappy with Offaly withdrawal from O'Byrne Cup
Unsurprisingly, the Leinster Council have taken a rather dim view of Offaly's withdrawal from the competition.
In a statement this afternoon, they questioned why counties would pull out of the event having long known about the playing commitments that would be required in order to take part.
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, January 21 between Longford and Louth, in Glennon Brothers Pearse Park at 2pm.
With the GAA now looking at tweaking the calendar, you get the sense that pre-season competitions may soon be a thing of the past.