SPORTING DIARY: Ulster Championship change to be welcomed

with Sports Editor Peter Campbell

Peter Campbell


Peter Campbell

SPORTING DIARY: Ulster Championship change to be welcomed

Drama in Towney with helicopter

Ulster Championship change to be welcomed

The decision announced this week to the Ulster Senior Championship around the issue of the preliminary round is to be warmly welcomed.

It is obviously the brainchild of new Provincial Secretary, Brian McAvoy, and will see the two teams drawn in the preliminary round in 2019 exempt from the preliminary round draw for two years. It means that there will be seven counties in the hat for the preliminary round in 2020 and and 2021 and five counties from 2022 onwards.

Ulster is by far the most competitive province in the football championship and when you have to prepare for a preliminary round (as Donegal and Cavan have to do this year) it becomes a much stiffer task if you want to walk up the hill to Clones for an Ulster final.

Mr. McAvoy pointed out in the press release announcing the decision that since the introduction of the preliminary round only four counties have gone through to win the Ulster title - Cavan in 1945; Armagh in 2005 and Donegal in 2011 and 2012. He also pointed out that Cavan have been drawn in the preliminary round on seven occasions since the start of the new millennium, while Derry have only been pulled out on two occasions.

There certainly was an anomaly and it is good that it is being cleared up.

I suppose there is no point in raising the question of doing away with the provincial championships altogether to give a level playing field to all counties in an Open Draw!

That would remove all anomalies!

Drama in Kilcar

There was drama in Kilcar on and off the field on Sunday. The football team were, by all accounts, rather lucky to escape with a draw after Milford had played really well to lead by two points as the game entered injury time. But then up stepped Patrick McBrearty with two scores to get his side a share of the spoils.

There was further drama, though, after the game with mentor Seamus Gallagher taking ill and then being airlifted to Altnagelvin Hospital in super quick time where the necessary treatment was applied and Gallagher was back in a hospital ward before 8.30.

I was getting texts and updates on the situation and by all accounts it was a scary situation which was handled extremely well. The networking between the club, medical people, ambulance and Coastguard must have been like clockwork; not a minute was wasted and thankfully the outcome was excellent too.

Seamus is now back in Letterkenny Hospital and well on the way to recovery, and, no doubt, will be back on the line in Towney when he’s fully recovered. He is just one of those people who loves the game and is at his happiest when stuck in the middle of it.

Hurry back Seamus.

U-17s get Ulster shock

After four straight wins in their Ulster campaign, the Donegal U-17s hit something of a roadblock on Saturday last in the Ulster final, going down heavily to Monaghan in the final in Drumragh.

But they were playing no ordinary team. The Monaghan side (who Donegal had defeated in the Buncrana Cup U-16 semi-final last year) were a superb side. They were powerful up the middle but also had great forwards who gave the Donegal defence a torrid time.

Donegal did score 1-12 and the forward division was their strongest suit. Hopefully, they can recover from the defeat. They have their first championship game on Saturday week - a tough encounter away to Tyrone. They defeated the Red Hand men in the opening league game in Ballyshannon, but they were rather fortunate that day.  Championship is always different and after Saturday, Donegal will have no illusions when they travel to Healy Park.

Back in another final

Carl McHugh will be leading Motherwell out for another cup final in Scotland next month after the Premiership outfit eased to a surprisingly comfortable semi-final win over Aberdeen on Saturday.

Motherwell will meet Celtic in the cup decider, which will be a repeat of last November’s Betfred Cup final in which Celtic ran out 2-0 winners.

Brendan Rodgers became the first Celtic boss since Jock Stein to win four domestic trophies in-a-row when the Glasgow side won that day. They’re a shoe-in for another league title and a cup final win would round off another remarkable campaign. Mind you, McHugh and Motherwell’s cup form this season suggests Celtic might not have it all that easy on cup final day.