Donegal GAA clubs are this week considering a master club fixtures plan put before them by the County Competitions Control Committee on Tuesday night, at the county’s annual fixtures forum.
The plan, which has been put together by the Donegal CCC and presented by CCC chairman Charlie Cannon, is a draft plan and was drawn up in consultation with county manager Jim McGuinness.
It’s main aim is to give clubs, club footballers and club managers a schedule of games at the start of the year so that they have an idea from week to week and month to month their programme of games.
It aims to end years of rows, arguments and disputes over the playing of club games in the county.
It is also geared towards accommodating the county team manager and to assist him in planning and preparing for his championship season.
The plan is based on Donegal retaining the Ulster championship and making it through all the way to the All-Ireland final.
The proposal, which is ambitious to say the least, would see the introduction of matched games where teams with county players would be paired to play each other without their county men.
These games would be known as ‘starred games’ and would apply to the club leagues only and not the championship.
While this is something that has been tried in an ad hoc way in the past, it was never an official policy and ran into bother. This time it is planned to enshrine this in county regulations; in other words, give it full legal effect. In all four ‘star games’ are included in the plan.
Sunday April 1 is the proposed start date for the league and they would be all wrapped up and completed by the first weekend in November at the latest.
To achieve this, it planned to have at least six rounds played by the end of April and 11 rounds of games by the end of June, 14 rounds by the end of July, 17 rounds by the end of August, and 18 rounds by the end of September with October pencilled in for playing back-log games and play-offs.
This would necessitate playing one round of double fixtures (Friday evening and Sunday) in April and another double round of games in June.
May would have two ‘star games’ with one each in June and July. The double round of fixtures in April does not take into account Donegal reaching the latter stages of the Allianz National Football League and if they were it would certainly put the plan off course.
It is also planned to play the bulk of club championship football in July, August and September with the second weekend in July pencilled in for the opening games in the senior, intermediate and junior championship.
The senior final is fixed for Sunday October 14th with the intermediate marked down for the following Sunday October 21st while it is planned to play the junior final the Sunday before the All-Ireland football final.
“It is an ambitious plan, but by and large it went down well with the clubs on Tuesday night. We have tried as best as we can to accommodate everybody, both clubs and county team,” CCC chairman Charlie Cannon told the Democrat.
“We have looked at every possible scenario and we’ve had lengthy discussion on the matter with the county senior management team and Rory Gallagher was at the meeting. It is all about getting the balance right between the club programme and the county schedule, and that is not easy. But we feel the plan is the best possible we could come up with.
“It is based on Donegal retaining the Ulster championship and going all the way to the All-Ireland final and to come up with a comprehensive plan you have to work back from All-Ireland final day.
“But should Donegal lose in the early rounds of the championship and have to go down the Qualifier route then we will have to look at it again and that is why we have included a review for June when we will take all the clubs back in again and see how we are getting on and if there are any adjustments to be made.
“For the plan to work the clubs have to buy into it and be willing to work to it and embrace the ‘star games’ and it is also vital that we reach our target of ten to 11 games by the end June. If we achieve that it will most definitely succeed. Getting ten to 11 games played at the end of June is vital.”
The CCC plan is based on the existing all county league structures. However, there are also a large number of proposals from clubs on the make up of the All-County Leagues with up to half the clubs in the county submittting proposals ahead of last Tuesday night’s meeting.
It was also agreed if any clubs wished to make further submissions they could do so to the county secretary. The closing date for receipt of those submissions was tomorrow Friday.
The CCC plan and the submissions from the clubs will go before next month’s county committee meeting for further discussion and ultimate approval.