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Club meet Jim and favour a late start

Donegal manager Jim McGuinness.  Photo: Donna McBride
BY CHRIS MCNULTY

THE senior and Intermediate clubs in Donegal meet with the county executive tomorrow night in an attempt to find agreement on a schedule for the 2014 club championships.

It follows a meeting between those parties and Jim McGuinness on Friday night last at which the Donegal manager raised a number of concerns in relation to the impact of the 2013 schedule on his ability to prepare his team during the summer.

A suggestion to play two rounds of the Championship in April, following the cessation of the National Football League, was not met with the approval of clubs, concerned at the impact an early exit would have on the squad.

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Clubs, though, were open to the prospect of parking the Championships until Donegal’s involvement in the All-Ireland series is over. Based on this year, when Donegal exited at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage in early August, there would be ample time to run off the games.

With three group games, it takes a minimum of six games to win the Donegal SFC and this could prove problematic were Donegal to advance deeper into the campaign, particularly were the sod of the All-Ireland final to be crossed again.

In that eventuality, there has been a suggestion to revert to a ‘straight knockout’ structure to the Championship but, again, it is a scenario that would take some convincing for clubs to vote in and it seems improbable that it would get the green light.

Since Friday night’s meeting with McGuinness, clubs have been meeting to discuss the situation while some others will hold club meetings this evening. The general consensus is that support for McGuinness is a must, but there is growing angst over when it is right to play these games with clubs also voicing concerns over a hurried schedule.

McGuinness had made a dash to Friday’s sitting after his wife, Yvonne, gave birth to twin girls, Bonnie and Eve, earlier in the evening. In a sign of his willingness to continue in his role as the Donegal manager, the Glenties man attended the meeting when it would have been understandable for him to make his excuses.

Fixtures, or more specifically their scheduling, is the biggest source of the ire of McGuinness, who is said to have cut an animated figure as he presented his concerns to a mixture of club managers, secretaries and chairmen from the senior and intermediate clubs.

During the weeks between the Tyrone and Down games and then between the Down and Monaghan games, McGuinness was left biting the nails as his players took part in three rounds of the Donegal SFC, while some also took part in Comortas Peile na Gaeltachta.

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Tomorrow night, one representative from each of the senior and intermediate clubs will attend the follow-up meeting, at Jackson’s Hotel. It is the hope of the executive and McGuinness that agreement will be reached on the schedule. McGuinness has also requested that club games involving members of his squad all take place on the one day, either a Saturday or a Sunday, to enable collective training on the other day.

The All-Ireland winning manager’s future remains clouded, but agreement on the scheduling of clubs fixture would go some way to moving the process on. Agreement to McGuinness’s liking tomorrow night, though, is not guaranteed to retain his services, but it would certainly be a shot in the right direction.

With fixtures at the top of his wish list, it was those he took to addressing first, but there are other matters he will seek assurances about before agreeing to lead Donegal football into 2014.

It is not expected that there will be any concrete announcement to that end until the October sitting of the Donegal county committee. Before then, meetings will be the order of the day, it seems. Tomorrow’s, at least, should give some indication as to the direction of the next three weeks.

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