GAA Football

Down Senior panellists to train with clubs for just five days under new proposals

If new proposals are passed by clubs in Down, players on Eamonn Burns' panel would only be available to train with their clubs for five days next year prior to the county's Ulster Championship opener. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

DOWN county board is proposing that players on their senior football squad next season will only be available to train with their clubs for five days prior to their opening Ulster Championship game.

In a document sent to clubs last month that will be discussed at a county committee meeting next week, it is proposed that members of the county panel would train “solely with the county” from the beginning of the year until April 2.

Under the proposals, players would not be available to their clubs for training or challenge games during that pre-season period.

Unless they reach the Division Two final, Down’s final National Football League game will take place away to Cork on Sunday, April 2.

Players would be made fully available to their clubs from that date for five days until the opening round of club league fixtures on April 7.

From that date until Down’s first round fixture in the Ulster Championship – which could be played as late as mid-June depending on the draw – county panellists would again be reserved for inter-county duty.

The proposal aims to allow players to play for their clubs from the beginning of the club Leagues in April up until nine days before the county’s first Ulster Championship fixture.

While that would seem like a concession on the traditional 13 days, players would still miss two rounds of Friday night league games as usual.

It is also proposed that, in relation to the players playing for their clubs throughout the season, the county management team and medical staff would “liaise with clubs in relation to the physical well-being of all players”.

Among other moves, Down county board has also put forward the idea of removing a two-week break in July.

The proposed calendar of games would provide club footballers with a game on 23 consecutive Friday nights.

League games would be played across the divisions from April 2 until July 28, when the first weekend of the club Championships would take place.

The second round of Championship games would take place from August 14-18, with round three set to be played the following weekend under the proposed schedule.

“The Club Championship fixtures first three rounds are based on 2016 dates; we are again basing our dates for county finals in football on the presumption that we will not have a preliminary round game in the Ulster Club Championship,” read the document sent to clubs, which has been seen by The Irish News.

“We have removed the Friday-Monday fixtures for 2017 other than in the case of replacing Good Friday with Easter Monday.

“This gives the club player guaranteed weekly fixture from 7th April right through until 22nd October for Division 1 and 2.”

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