Donegal manager Declan Bonner
Donegal GAA officials have faced off a potential April stand-off with county manager, Declan Bonner, on the thorny issue of club versus county.
The Democrat has learned that a meeting between the Donegal Competitions Control Committee (CCC) and the Donegal manager has headed off the potential showdown at the pass.
And the Democrat has also learned from a well placed source that the Donegal CCC have received an agreement from the manager that he was not going to deny the clubs access to the players in April.
Declan Bonner, in an interview in the Democrat back at the end of November, had condemned the Croke Park rule that designated April a month for club football.
In his argument against the Croke Park proposal, Bonner cited Donegal’s preliminary round Ulster Championship meeting with Cavan, as making the Croke Park rule impossible to adhere to.
Donegal are due to play Cavan in the preliminary round of the championship on the second weekend in May.
“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.
“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.”
However, it would now appear that the manager has had a change of heart and is freeing up the players to play with their clubs in April.
This is after detailed discussions with the CCC at a meeting before Christmas.
CCC officials are remaining tight lipped on the outcome of the meeting and the proposals emanating from it.
However CCC chairman, Frankie Doherty, did confirm that they had met with the county manager and that there had been a positive outcome from the meeting.
The meeting, the Democrat has learned, was instigated by new county chairman, Mick McGrath.
The chairman, in his in his first address following his election, said that he was putting the club versus county issue at the top of his agenda.
The Democrat has learned that the CCC will put a set of proposals to the clubs at next Monday night’s meeting, which is a continuation of the recent regulations meeting held at the end of November.
News that the thorny issue has been resolved will be warmly welcomed by club officials and managers right across the county.
The scenario of having to play the first four to five games of the season without their county players was not one many club managers would countenance.
And it was going to be particularly difficult in the season ahead due to Donegal being involved in the preliminary round in the Ulster championship.
If the players were not available in April a situation could have arisen where the clubs might not have their players for the best part of the first half of the league.
This, of course, was dependent on how Donegal fare in the championship and whether or not they advanced in Ulster or were forced down the Qualifier route.
Monday night’s meeting is once again in the Villa Rose Hotel.
The meeting will also discuss a number of regulations including one to delete the regulation which governs Star games.
Star games are where teams with county players are matched and paired for league fixtures. That is the theory. But with clubs having varying numbers of county men it is almost impossible to pair teams equally and has gives rise to a lot of disquiet from some clubs.
There is a general feeling among clubs and certainly among officials that it does not work and has outlived its usefulness.
Again with Donegal’s early outing in the championship, the Democrat has also learned that the CCC are going to propose that the club championship should not be played until Donegal exit the championship.
It is also understood that the CCC are going to put a proposal to begin the new All-County League season with a double round of games on the weekend of March 30th (Good Friday) and April 2nd (Bank Holiday Monday). Donegal are due to play their final National League game on Sunday, March 25th at home to Mayo.