Ulster Club series to include Saturday night games for first time
IN a new departure, Ulster Council will stage games in the senior provincial club football championship on Saturday nights for the first time ever this autumn.
Two of the four senior football quarter-finals will take place on Saturday 28 October, along with one intermediate tie and possibly one junior game.
The winners of this weekend’s mouth-watering preliminary tie, a repeat of last year’s final between Kilcoo and Slaughtneil, will be one of the sides that will be in Saturday night action.
The victors are in line to play the winners of Sunday’s Tyrone final, which sees Omagh meet Errigal Ciaran.
If Kilcoo were to win then the Ulster quarter-final would take place in Omagh, but if Slaughtneil hold on to their crown then they will have home advantage at either Owenbeg or Celtic Park.
On the same evening, three-in-a-row Fermanagh champions Derrygonnelly will host the winners of the Armagh decider, which sees holders Maghery take on Armagh Harps this weekend.
Both games are set to throw-in at 7pm, as will the intermediate quarter-final between Fermanagh champions Belcoo and the winners of the preliminary round clash of Newbridge (Derry) and Shercock (Cavan).
If Cavan junior champions Ballymachugh were to overcome Antrim’s Patrick Sarsfields in this weekend’s preliminary round, then their quarter-final meeting with Donegal champions – either Red Hughs or Naomh Colmcille – would also be a Saturday night fixture.
However, if Patrick Sarsfields were to emerge from the preliminary game then it would be a Sunday tie with the Donegal champions due to the lack of available floodlighting in Antrim.
One of the two senior club semi-finals is also set to take place on Saturday 11 November.
While games have traditionally been hosted on Sundays, there have been a number of junior and intermediate finals played as Saturday evening fixtures in recent years.
The move has been attributed to the strain put on Ulster Council’s body of volunteers by trying to host 12 games on one day at the quarter-final stage.
It will also allow the keenest spectators to attend more than one game on a busy weekend, which could help boost attendances in the increasingly popular competitions.
While eir Sport’s newly-established club coverage has seen a number of club championship games – particularly in Donegal – played on Saturday evenings to accommodate live TV, that is not the reason behind Ulster Council’s move, although the subscription broadcaster could yet make a move to show the games live.
Meanwhile, venues for the Ulster club hurling finals are due to be confirmed later today.
Holders Slaughtneil will meet Down champions Ballygalget in the senior decider next Sunday, October 22, and will be preceded by a curtain-raiser.
The Oak Leaf side are understood to have made representation to double it up with the Ulster senior camogie final, which for the third year running will be a meeting of Slaughtneil and Loughgiel.
However, Armagh’s Middletown are in action in the intermediate hurling final against Lavey on the same day, leaving Ulster Council having to make a decision on which game is moved out of Armagh as a standalone fixture.
Ulster Club SFC dates
Sunday 15 October: Kilcoo v Slaughtneil
Saturday 28 October: Derrygonnelly v Armagh Harps/Maghery; Omagh/Errigal Ciaran v Kilcoo/Slaughtneil (venue TBC)
Sunday 29 October: Cavan Gaels v St John’s/Lamh Dhearg; Scotstown/Magheracloone v Kilcar/Naomh Conaill
Saturday 11 November: Semi-final
Sunday 12 November: Semi-final
Sunday 26 November: Final