Donegal manager Declan Bonner
With Donegal clubs set to meet on Monday night to plan the format for the All County Leagues in 2018, Donegal manager, Declan Bonner, has hit out at the proposal from Croke Park that April be kept free for club football only.
The Donegal manager however agreed that planning club fixtures is a thankless task. However, he said Croke Park’s plan for a month of club football in April is unrealistic given that he will be preparing his squad to take on Cavan in a vital Ulster Championship game on May 13th.
“April will be vital for our preparation,” Bonner said.
“It’s okay for counties that don’t begin their championship games until June, but we have Cavan on May 13th.
“I know it is difficult for clubs to have to play without their county players and there will be certain players that will need football,” said Bonner.
“We have our last game in the league at the end of March. I would envisage giving players a week off, but then our preparation for the championship would begin in earnest.
“The way the modern game is going, preparing a county team has to be at a professional level,” he said.
The Na Rossa man said he knows too well the pressure at club level, having been involved for a long time. However, he also said it was difficult to find a solution that will have all sides happy.
“It is very, very difficult. Easing the pressure on relegation has to be an option.
“You would not want to see clubs punished for having players on the county panel. But there is an issue there and it needs to be addressed,” said the county manager, who said he was hearing that some clubs wanted the league reduced to 15 teams to reduce the pressure and also that some clubs were happy with the 10 team divisions.
The clubs in the county will gather on Monday night to decide how the club leagues will be structured in 2018.
There have been workshops on the matter over the last month or so and the debate has been far from conclusive. Some feel the leagues are working well as they are; others feel there needs to be a few tweaks, while others feel that the number of league games (18 at present) should be reduced and they would introduce a 15-club Division One and Two.
Reducing the leagues to 15 clubs would reduce the number of games from 18 to 14, taking a full month out of the calendar.
But the elephant in the room remains the availability of county players. In the past few years ‘Star’ fixtures where clubs with similar or equal numbers of county players were matched for games at times when the county were playing, but clubs have not been happy with this arrangement.
One of the big bugbears is that the ordinary club player does not, at present, have a schedule of games and for the last number of summers when Donegal were successful, there were not enough club games played in the summer months of June, July and August.
It remains to be seen what the outcome will be, but club delegates on Monday night will have to come up with a solution.
It is going to be a busy night for delegates with some 48 regulation motions, most of them to do with leagues.
For full list of regulations see sport section of www.donegaldemocrat.com