GAA Football

Glenullin take unprecedented step in new Derry championship

John Mitchel's, Glenullin have taken the unprecedented step of applying to enter the Derry Senior Football Championship despite having been relegated to intermediate football at the end of last season
Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Cahair O'Kane

THE Derry senior football championship will return to a straight knock-out format in 2016 - but its structure may have to be altered after Glenullin took an unusual step.

The Oak Leaf county formed a Games Review Committee (GRC) in October to meet with clubs and make recommendations on the composition of club football and hurling in Derry. The GRC made 11 recommendations, one of which will see the controversial current back-door format of the championship replaced by a straight knock-out competition.

At a meeting on Tuesday night, “Derry management committee adopted the Games Review Committee’s report for 2016,” a spokesperson for Derry county board confirmed. They also recommended retaining the current league structures, but changing the composition of fixtures. That means there will still be 16 teams in the senior football league.

However, in an unprecedented move, John Mitchel's, Glenullin have made an application to be allowed to enter the Derry senior football championship despite having been relegated at the end of last season.

In Derry, relegation or promotion within the league system also affects a club's championship grading. While clubs playing in different championships from the league in which they are graded in not unusual in some counties, the move is unheard of in Derry.

The Mitchel’s, who won their second ever Derry championship back in 2007, are understood to be exploring their options and have made the application, despite not having made a decision on whether they will enter the SFC if allowed. Under rule 3.1(b) of the GAA’s official guide, “A club shall be…eligible to participate in a Senior, Intermediate or Junior Championship Competition.”

If they do decide to step into the senior championship, it means Derry officials will have to make an alteration to the SFC structure in order to accommodate an extra team. The most likely solution is to introduce a preliminary round, though it also creates a problem for the intermediate football championship, which was due to introduce a round-robin system comprising 14 teams.

The Derry GRC’s other proposals were accepted en-bloc. They will see a football league system that will see the league effectively split in two for the purpose of fixtures, with clubs playing 'A’, ‘B’ and ‘H’ games.

The A games will see two teams from the top eight clubs, or two teams from the bottom eight, face each other. They will be guaranteed to have their county footballers and hurlers available for those games. The B fixtures will see a top eight team face a bottom eight team, for which they ‘may or may not’ have their county players available. Category H games will be played between dual clubs or clubs with players on the Derry hurling squad and will be played on B game days.

The Games Review Committee also aims to have their league campaigns finished by the time the club championships start in August. They opted to propose the categorised games over a ‘starred games’ system, which their report - revealed in The Irish News last month - says is too problematic in the event of constant changes to county squads.

It’s also proposed games be played across Friday night, Saturday evening and Sundays, and that midweek games be kept to a minimum. Crucially for club players, Derry’s GRC also recommended a two-week holiday break on the second and third weeks of July, which seems set to now come into force.

It’s recommended no club football or hurling be played at any level within the county during those two weeks, “allowing players and families to properly plan a holiday”.

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