BY CHRIS MCNULTY
SUMMER football looks set to be retained by the Ulster Senior League next season after a proposal for a return to winter football was deferred by the executive at an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) of the League at the Silver Tassie Hotel tonight.
While the executive had tabled the motion for a return to a winter (September-April) season, they have now opted to reconvene on Monday-week, December 2nd, to discuss their options. The likely scenario now is for a compromise to come in the form of an earlier start, possibly in February, and ending in September.
The League has run into difficulty with the cross-over of its players to the local junior leagues and it is thought that a February-September season would relieve them of this burden.
Tom Bonner of Drumkeen United and Pat McLaughlin from Cockhill Celtic made the suggestion which has forced the League into a rethink ahead of its AGM in January. At its meeting on Monday-week, it seems likely that the Executive will propose an amended motion, to include the earlier start and finish dates, for next season.
“We played our last game on September 22nd so it is possible to have all of the clubs finished by the end of September,” said McLaughlin.
“We should be looking forward, not back,” Bonner had said earlier in the meeting.
“The standard of the League has been much higher in the summer season and there are bound to be other ways of solving the transfer problem – why don’t we start the League earlier?
“Then, if a player wants to play junior football he can play junior football, if he wants to play Gaelic football he can play Gaelic football or if he wants to go and play cricket he can play cricket!”
Four clubs – Fanad United, Bonagee United, Kildrum Tigers and Letterkenny Rovers – spoke strongly in favour of winter football. The Letterkenny Rovers secretary, Eric White, added: “The players have failed the League by showing no loyalty to the clubs. They have left clubs high and dry with the mass exodus and the end of season was farcical.”
The new format will force some players who transferred to junior football into a dilemma: Switch back to the USL in January for a full season; or wait until June (the next available window) and effectively miss the first half of the campaign.
Derry City’s Eddie Seydak and James Rogers from Finn Harps explained that their clubs would consider withdrawing if a return to winter football was carried.
The League Chairman, Johnny McCafferty, explained at the outset that the executive had conducted an annual review into the League at the season’s end and found that they weren’t happy with three issues in particular: The abnormal amount of transfers (111) out of the League at the end of the campaign; the fact that teams, as a result, were finding it difficult to field because of the dearth of players; and the apparent dilution of the importance of the FAI Intermediate Cup because of the League season being out of sync with that of the Cup.
This, ultimately, led to them tabling the proposal which was before the League’s nine clubs tonight, but which has been deferred and is likely to be amended and put to the AGM.
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