GAA Football

Heron doubt for Derry opener

Benny Heron is a major doubt for Derry's Ulster championship opener against either Donegal or Cavan. Picture by Colm O'Reilly

BENNY Heron is a doubt for Derry’s Ulster championship opener with a shoulder injury, although it appears to not be as bad as first feared.

The Ballinascreen forward suffered a damaged ac joint in a recent club league game against Newbridge and is set to be out for around another five-to-six weeks.

The Oak Leafers will be the last side in Ulster to enter the provincial series when they meet the winners of the preliminary round clash between Donegal and Cavan.

That game will take place in either Celtic Park or Kingspan Breffni on May 27, which is four-and-a-half weeks away.

Heron is one of only a handful of experienced players that were available to Damian McErlain through the National League, although the resources have been bolstered by the Slaughtneil six coming back as well as Sean Leo McGoldrick.

Terence O’Brien has also suffered an injury to his ac joint, but while he too remains in a sling, The Loup forward is expected to be fit for their Ulster campaign.

Other than that, the county squad has so far escaped from a frantic period of intense club games with a clean bill of health.

The decision to restructure the club leagues in Derry means that four, or possibly five, teams will be relegated out of the top flight for next season.

That has made for a dog-eat-dog opening in which only Claudy have failed to register any points from the first four games.

Each club has three more rounds to play within seven days, beginning this Sunday before a full round on Wednesday night and the final group of games the following Sunday.

With clubs guaranteed to have their county players available for all their games this year due to the restructure, the club leagues will break up after May 6 until the middle of July.

A league cup competition will be played off week-on-week in between times, and the club programme would only be affected if Derry were to reach the All-Ireland quarter-final series.

MEANWHILE, the Club Players’ Association has revealed details of its latest survey findings in which a high percentage of the almost-4,000 respondents backed the idea of “escalating” action against the club fixtures crisis.

67 per cent of those surveyed said that they would back the CPA in escalating the situation and going down a different route in pursuit of achieving their goal of ‘fixing the fixtures’.

A further 13 per cent offered suggestions, with only 20 per cent of respondents saying no to the idea.

Almost three-quarters of those that took the survey (72 per cent) said that they are still not happy with the organisation of club fixtures in their county, and some 89 per cent would like to see designated periods for club, inter-county and college games so that there is no overlap of fixtures.

Just over half of the 3,959 people that took the survey said that the April had been “successfully” set aside for club activity in their county, while only 41 per cent said they had received a master fixtures plan with specified dates for the rest of their games in 2018.

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