The Competitions Control Committee (CCC) have offered to meet with Donegal senior management after Jim McGuinness let his grievances be known over the scheduling of recent club fixtures.
McGuinness gave his annual report to county committee on Tuesday night in Ballybofey and claimed an agreement was in place with the CCC to schedule all All-County Football League Divisions One and Two fixtures on a Sunday.
This would in turn free-up each Saturday to enable McGuinness to train the county panel.
“There was no agreement,” said Sean McGinley, the secretary of the CCC.
“We did agree that we would try and work the Sunday fixtures but if clubs want to put their fixture on a Saturday to get a better gate, that’s their right,” said McGinley.
Whether or not there was an agreement in place, McGuinness was unhappy he wasn’t invited to a forum to discuss the fixtures at the start of the year.
Rory Gallagher, McGuinness’s assistant, represented the county management at a meeting with the CCC.
“There was a forum with the clubs and the CCC but as county management we weren’t invited to that forum,” McGuinness said. “You’d think we would have been one of the first people to be invited.
“Secondly, we had an agreement with the CCC. Rory Gallagher met them and we were in agreement all the club games would be played on either a Saturday or a Sunday. We offered either. If they wanted Saturday then we would train on a Sunday and if they wanted Sunday then we’d go Saturday.”
There have been 25 matches in the All-County Football League Division One and 27 in Division Two this term to date and while the opening month of the season saw all fixtures on Sundays, last Saturday week St Michael’s welcomed Ardara.
Then, last Saturday evening, Killybegs faced Gaoth Dobhair. Malin are due to take on Killybegs this Saturday but county panellists will not feature.
“We’ve a situation now, where, for two weekends in-a-row, there’s been Saturday fixtures,” McGuinness said. “We had a challenge match against Galway last Friday and had then planned a tactical training session for Saturday, only to learn there was club games.
“Because of what happened last weekend we lost 25 per cent of our players and we had to change our plans at training. We couldn’t do it and force them to play again in the evening.
“We couldn’t run with the session we had planned. I don’t think it would happen in any other county. Three weeks out from the Tyrone match, from our point of view, it’s a very difficult situation.
“We feel the CCC has misled us. They have forced a situation where the county players, the county management and the clubs are at loggerheads. I don’t believe it has to be that way. All we’re asking for is to play all the club games on Saturdays or all on Sundays.”
McGuinness also made it known that although he agreed with the club championship first round schedules, his feelings were misrepresented in the local media over the pencilling in of the quarter-finals in August.
“We had agreed to stage three rounds of the club championship in four weekends in June - because of the All-Ireland Gaeltacht,” McGuinness added.
“We didn’t agree to quarter-finals being played on August 10 and 11. That’s two weeks before a potential All-Ireland semi-final if we’re lucky to be in that position.
“It was quoted in the local newspapers that county management agreed to those dates. That’s untrue and I’m not happy with things going out into the public domain saying that we agreed to something when we didn’t. All I want is for the team to be successful and for the team to move forward.”
Central Council delegate Niall Erskine interjected to propose that the discussion go ‘in camera’, but McGuinness refused. He said: “There’ll be no in camera.”
McGuinness left the meeting with his father-in-law Colm McFadden Snr to catch a flight to Glasgow for his work at Celtic FC as a performance director.
Sometime later, Erskine proposed again that the discussion on fixtures be placed in camera. While this was seconded and largely supported by delegates, it is not common practice for items to be retrospectively placed in camera.
“The CCC have no anti-county team agenda whatsoever,” Danny McNamee, the chairman of the CCC said, after McGuinness’s exit. “We did not mislead the county manager and we extend the invitation to the county manager to have a good discussion. We will meet him half way.”
After this weekend the Donegal players will be giving their full commitment to the county team.
The panel are due to travel to Johnston House, Co Meath, on Tuesday next for a five-day training camp as part of the preparation for their clash with Tyrone in Ballybofey on Sunday, May 26.