WHILE the All-County Football League gets underway in two weeks’ time, there is not yet an agreed start date for the 2014 Senior and Intermediate Football Championships.
The schedule for the start of the League has also come in for sharp criticism by clubs with Divisions 1 and 2 set to have a break of at least three weeks between their first two games.
With the season not yet underway, there was a somewhat ominous tone on Monday nighy in the Villa Rose Hotel, Ballybofey, at the monthly sitting of county committee when the topic of fixtures filled the clock.
The Competitions Controls Committee confirmed that they have fourteen rounds of League fixtures scheduled between the weekend of March 23rd and July.
Donegal officials have until March 31 to submit their fixtures programme to the Ulster Council for approval.
Seán McGinley, the CCC secretary, said that no date had yet been fixed for the start of the Championship. The Kilcar man voiced concerns at the decision taken in late 2013 to defer the start of the senior and intermediate championships until Donegal’s involvement in the All-Ireland series has ended.
“If we happen to get to an All-Ireland final, we will be in the situation we were in back in 2012. We don’t want to go back to that,” he said.
“We want to work with everyone to get an agreed fixtures programme in place.
“We hope to have a meeting with the senior team manager shortly to discuss the matter.”
County Chairman Sean Dunnion asked delegates to ‘bare with the CCC for a couple of weeks ‘till they get their heads around the Championship dates’.
Under questioning from Ardara’s Mary Kelly, CCC Chairman Denis Ellis denied that the fixture-making body was divided on the issue, but admitted concerns would arise at the amount of available dates should Donegal advance to the All-Ireland final.
The CCC has managed to pencil in fourteen rounds of the All-County League between the weekend of March 23 and July, while Dunnion said that it was their intention to complete the League before commencing the Championships.
Although there will be a full round of League games in two weeks’ time – with County Champions Glenswilly hosting Four Masters and League holders St Eunan’s traveling to face St Michael’s in two of the ties – it could be three weeks before the clubs next play.
Due to the National League games against Louth and Armagh, there will be two free weeks and the Donegal senior footballers are heading to Portugal for a week-long training camp.
That could be extended further if Donegal reach the Division 2 final.
McGinley said he was reluctant to schedule ‘star games’ this early in the season, but would be open to the possibility if clubs insisted.
However, the break came in for some stern comments.
“We have had four meetings to discuss fixtures and here we are again,” said Malin’s Pat McLaughlin.
“This is running the GAA into the ground. We are sacrificing 39 clubs for the sake of 30-odd players.
“Jesus, we are going backwards here. We have sat for four nights on this. Why are we still at it?
Jim Quinn expressed concern, as did Pat Boyle of Na Rossa, who cited the structre of the National League as the source of the problems.
Killybegs’ John Cunningham added: “This is the first mention of the team going to Portugal – surely we should have been given this before now.”
At the moment there is double round of fixtures planned for Easter weekend.
On the opening weekend there are only two games scheduled for Division 3 because of a clash with the National Hurling League.
Division 4 does not get underway until the weekend of April 13.
All-County Football League, week ending March 23
Division 1: Malin v Kilcar, St Michael’s v St Eunan’s, Gaoth Dobhair v Ardara, Glenswilly v Four Masters, Termon v Naomh Conaill
Division 2: Downings v Naomh Muire, Fanad Gaels v Cloughaneel, Sean MacCumhaills v St Naul’s, Bundoran v Killybegs, Dungloe v Glenfin
Division 3: Naomh Brid v Naomh Colmcille, Aodh Ruadh v Buncrana