Ulster Council tried to get semi-final postponement for Donegal U21s
THE Ulster Council sought a postponement of the All-Ireland U21 Football semi-final involving its representatives in an effort to avoid the tight schedule that contributed to Donegal's defeat.
Donegal U21 boss Declan Bonner voiced strong criticism of the provincial body after his team lost to Dublin on Saturday, less than five full days after beating Derry in the Ulster decider on Monday April 10.
However, the Ulster Council has detailed its efforts to gain breathing space for its champions – efforts which were stymied in part by the scheduling of the Dublin club championship.
In a statement issued to The Irish News, the provincial body said: "On the morning of 30 March the Ulster Council sought a postponement of the All-Ireland U21 Football semi-final as both Ulster semi-finals were rained off the previous evening.
"A specially convened meeting of the Central Competitions Control Committee took place that evening but they were unable to accede to our request due to the fact that a round of Dublin Championship fixtures are taking place this coming weekend."
Dublin, waiting to meet the Ulster winners, did not want either to field without key U21 players or to postpone their club championship fixtures.
Even after that CCCC meeting on Thursday March 30 there was still more than a fortnight until the All-Ireland semi-final date of Saturday April 15.
Yet the Ulster Council's 'wriggle room' was limited further by Allianz Football League fixtures, as its statement went on to explain:
"The necessity to re-schedule both Ulster U21 semi-finals resulted in a five-day gap between both Ulster semi-finals and the final and a further five days between the Ulster Final and All-Ireland semi-final.
"Due to National Football League games taking place on 1 and 2 April it was not possible to re-schedule the Ulster semi-finals any earlier than 5 April and the respective five-day gaps, as referred to above, were designed to be as fair as possible in the circumstances."
Bonner was scathing about the packed programme his U21 players had to deal with, saying on Saturday:
"The five-day turnaround was much too short, particularly at this level and the work that goes in. It was just a step too far.
"I think it was crazy to play that match after five days. It's unfair on the players and everyone else involved.
"The Ulster Council need to take a good look at themselves and ask why this was the case. Every other province had a two-week break. The turnaround was just crazy, crazy stuff."
The Ulster winners should have had a nine-day break from the originally scheduled final date of Wednesday April 5 until the All-Ireland semi-final but the Ulster semi-finals being rained off on March 29 put paid to those plans.
The demands on Donegal were made worse by their having to play a quarter-final replay against Tyrone on March 22, meaning that they ended up playing five U21 Championship matches between March 15 and April 15 inclusive.
The Ulster Council spokesman did express disappointment that its provincial winners were not able to reach the All-Ireland Final against Galway:
"While Donegal went into Saturday's All-Ireland semi-final with momentum they were unfortunately unable to play with the same flair as in their previous games and Dublin were worthy winners on the day.
"It is however disappointing that the last All-Ireland U21 Football title won't be coming to Ulster".