There are growing concerns among Donegal GAA officials that the county’s club fixture programme is going to come under scrutiny in 2014.
The belief is that last September’s decision by the Donegal clubs not to play the 2014 senior and intermediate championships until Donegal exit the All-Ireland series is going to come under particular consideration, when the fixture schedule goes before the Ulster Council for ratification.
Other counties too, such as Tyrone and Clare, may also find their fixture schedules coming under the spotlight. Tyrone did not play any senior championship football until after their All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Mayo last September.
Likewise, Clare officials were left with a major headache to get their hurling championship played following their run to All-Ireland hurling glory.
The Clare senior club hurling championship was not played until after the Banner County’s All-Ireland final replay win over Cork. Many other counties have run into problems with playing their premier championship.
Donegal’s fears that the county is going to be singled out comes on the back of the stinging criticism their decision received in recent months from the Football Review Committee chairman, Eugene McGee.
The Ulster Council are the governing body for all club fixtures in all the counties in the province following a rule passed at Congress a number of years ago.
One official, who did not wish to be speak publicly on the matter, did state that he had it from a good authority that all four provincial bodies had received a directive from Croke Park to deal with counties that do not provide a structured and regular programme of games for club players.
Under existing rules, each county is obliged to submit their full adult fixture programme for leagues and championships by the end of March each year. This is a practice that has been in place for a number of years.
The provincial body has the right to either accept or reject the proposed schedule. And if they reject it they can impose a number of sanctions right up to not allowing a county play in the senior championship.
Up to now, the Ulster Council and the other provincial bodies have, on an annual basis, more or less rubber stamped the fixtures schedules of their respective counties. However, in light of the Football Review Committee’s criticism and the growing unrest among club players right around the country, the provincial bodies may be willing to bare their teeth on the matter for the first time.
There is even annoyance among some officials that Donegal are being singled out unfairly and that a number of other counties have taken similar decisions.
The Donegal Competitions’ Control Committee are currently drawing up the 2014 club fixture schedule and despite a lot of criticism of last September’s decision by the clubs, they are tied to that.
However, there is a body of opinion that the CCC may have to go back to Donegal manager Jim McGuinness and take another look at the fixture schedule.
The CCC are due to bring their fixture schedule for 2014 to the February County Committee meeting for approval.
Meanwhile, there will be a proposal before next Monday night’s County Committee meeting that the press be allowed back to cover monthly meetings of the Association. The chairman, secretary and PRO met members of the press on Sunday last after the controversy which arose when the press declined an invitation to attend the recent County Convention.