A bizarre fixtures wrangle, involving Kilmaley and Tulla GAA Clubs, was resolved on Wednesday afternoon following an emergency meeting of the Clare GAA Fixtures Committee.
After their 5-12 to 0-20 defeat to Tulla in Sunday’s Group 1 Senior Hurling Championship fixture, Kilmaley left Clarecastle believing they had finished third in the group, while Tulla were convinced they had finished bottom, on scoring difference.
Tubber, Kilmaley and Tulla all finished on two points in the group, which was topped by Newmarket. Tubber qualified for Sunday’s quarter-final against Sixmilebridge on the basis that they had the best scoring difference of the three tied clubs. Based on scoring difference, Kilmaley were third and Tulla fourth.
This system has applied for the last number of seasons in both the county hurling and football championships.
The Clare Champion learned that the basis for a decision made on Monday was that by virtue of making the last eight on scoring difference, Tubber were removed from the three-team saga. With Tulla having beaten Kilmaley in their head-to-head, the fixtures committee initially ruled that they were third in the group, despite having an inferior scoring difference.
Ironically, speaking to The Clare Champion on Monday, Tulla manager Ray Stuart confirmed that his team were preparing for a three-way relegation battle, also involving St Joseph’s Doora-Barefield and Clarecastle.
“We just have to put the head down now for the relegation play-off. No team wants to go down Senior B,” the Tulla manager said.
That scenario changed dramatically at 10pm on Monday night, however, when Kilmaley were informed that, contrary to the belief of everyone involved, they were bottom of the group and were one of the clubs fighting relegation.
The Clare County Board Fixtures Committee meeting on Monday had ignored GAA rule 6.20 (5) and decided that Kilmaley, and not Tulla, were bottom of the group.
Kilmaley held a snap club meeting on Tuesday night, while club members also sought guidance from Croke Park and the Dispute Resolutions Committee. It was indicated to them that the Clare County Board had got it badly wrong in believing that Kilmaley were bottom of the group.
Following the resolution of the issue on Wednesday, Kilmaley club chairman Noel McGough told The Clare Champion his club felt the right decision had been arrived at.
“Justice has been done. We feel vindicated given that we appealed and our appeal was proven to be right,” he said.
He revealed it was the club’s belief the issue should never have arisen.
“We think it shouldn’t have happened in the first place. We were in shock when we were told that it happened. We’re just glad now that it has been rectified,” Mr McGough added.
The controversy was added to when the Clare County Board was contacted by Scariff and Killanena GAA Clubs, who pointed out that if Tulla were deemed to have finished third and the same logic was applied, neither of them could have finished bottom of their respective groups in the Senior B and Intermediate Hurling Championships.
Speaking before the Clare County Board back-tracked, Kilmaley manager PJ Kennedy said he couldn’t understand on what basis the fixtures committee had made their decision.
“I’m very disappointed with the whole shenanigans. We were led to believe that in the event of a three-way tie, scoring difference would decide who went forward or into the relegation play-off. We beat Tubber in that head-to-head and Tulla beat us. How can it be decided who goes up or who goes down in that event?” the bemused Kilmaley manager queried.
The Clare Champion contacted Clare County Board secretary Pat Fitzgerald on Wednesday but at the time of going to press, the official had failed to return the call.
County Board chairman Michael McDonagh was also unavailable for comment.
For the record, Rule 6.20 (5) from the official GAA rule book, which pertains to the running of county championships on a league basis, states:
(a) League results shall be credited as follows: Two points for a win, and one for a draw.
(c) Except where provided for otherwise in County Bye-Law or in competition regulation, when teams finish with equal points for qualification for the concluding stages, or for promotion or relegation, the tie shall be decided by the following means and in the order specified:
(i) Where two teams only are involved – the outcome of the meeting of the two teams in the previous game in the competition;
(ii) Scoring difference (subtracting the total scores against from total scores for);
(iii) Highest total score for;
(iv) A play-off.