Donegal opts for a radically new senior championship format

Donegal’s premier club competition, the senior football championship, is set for a radical change after it was decided to run the opening rounds of the competition on a round-robin basis in 2013.

Donegal’s premier club competition, the senior football championship, is set for a radical change after it was decided to run the opening rounds of the competition on a round-robin basis in 2013.

The new systems will replace the existing two legged first round structure that has been in place for years. It was proposed in the name of Killybegs at Monday night’s monthly county committee meeting.

The four groups of four teams will be drawn from the nine teams in Division One and the top six teams Division Two and the previous year’s intermediate championship.

In the event of the intermediate champions being one of the top six in Division Two, then the seventh team in division two will make up the 16th team.

Each team will have at least three games playing other once in a round robin format

The new format, which got the unanimous support of the committee, comes in to play in 2013. The regulation just covers the senior championship though it was also decided to explore the possibility of playing the intermediate and junior championships under the same format.

The sixteen teams will be divided into four groups by way of a random draw. The top two teams from each group will qualify for the quarter-finals.

Provision has been made in the event of teams ending up level on points along the lines as currently employed under regulation for league games.

The quarter-final draw will be an open draw as will the semi-final pairings.

One team will be relegated from the championship each year with the bottom team in each group playing-off in a series of play-offs to determine who makes the drop to Intermediate football the following year.

The recommendation also give the fixture makers the option (also left open) to play the games over a two year cycle which would ensure that all clubs would have three home games over the two years.

All games in the championship after the group games will be played at neutral venues.

In his submission Ed Byrne insisted that the format would raise the profile and interest in the championship and the extra games would raise the standard of club football.

He also stressed that clubs would be guaranteed at least three championship games and that barring draws no extra weekends would be required to play the championship.

The other big advantage of the new format, he added, was that a club’s championship status would be determined by their championship form and not their league form.

It is most certainly a radical move and it will freshen up the championship. The most amazing thing about Monday night’s decision was that after years of stubborn resistance from the clubs the format was accepted and passed without even a whimper of opposition.

However, a second recommendation passed afterwards which proposed that a team who reached the senior championship semi-final the previous year and finished outside the top six teams ini division two be included in the senior championship.

This was passed on the recommendation of Glenfin and means that this year’s championship (2012) will be made up of 17 teams. And with the new format for 2013 season designed for only 16 teams it could give officials a headache if one of the semi-finalists this year finishes outside the cut-off point of sixth in division two.