GAA Football

No talk of axing Dr McKenna Cup at national level insists Ulster Council secretary Brian McAvoy

Donegal defeated Tyrone in the final of the Dr McKenna Cup back in February, after a raft of postponements saw the final delayed. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

THERE have been no discussions about getting rid of pre-season competitions such as the Dr McKenna Cup according to Ulster Council secretary Brian McAvoy - despite suggestions they could be set for the axe.

Reports over the weekend indicated that the likes of the Dr McKenna Cup, O’Byrne Cup, McGrath Cup, Walsh Cup and FBD League were under threat as the GAA looks to free up space in the fixture calendar.

Indeed, speaking to RTÉ Sunday Sport, Fixtures Review Committee chairman Michael Martin claimed “the whole value of pre-season competitions has been questioned” before adding that “they’re not a major priority for us”.

It is a matter that continues to raise its head as the GAA searches for solutions to its fixtures problems, but McAvoy says any suggestion that the pre-season competitions could be on their last legs was news to him.

“I sit on the national CCC [Competitions Control Committee] and there hasn’t been any discussions about getting rid of the pre-season competitions at the national fixtures committee,” said the Burren man.

“It hasn’t been a topic at all at CCC.”

And even if it was, McAvoy would be strongly in support of the McKenna Cup’s retention, insisting there is no movement within the province to do away with the competition.

“The McKenna Cup is very well supported for a pre-season competition,” he continued.

“Counties would be looking challenge games in January anyway, and in Ulster I know the colleges - all three of them [Queen’s, Ulster University and St Mary’s] - value it as preparation ahead of Sigerson.

“It serves a good purpose, and I have certainly detected no movement within Ulster to do away with it. There may be one or two voices barking in the wind but within the province of Ulster they’re in a very small minority.

“I don’t think anybody calling for a blanket ban on what is a very popular competition is really looking at the bigger picture. It’s just a knee-jerk reaction – I don’t think they’re really thinking it through.”

This year’s McKenna Cup was badly hit by the weather, with frozen pitches forcing several games to be rescheduled as the cold winter bit hard and wreaked havoc with the fixtures schedule.

As a result the final wasn’t played until February 17, after two rounds of the National League, when Donegal ended Tyrone’s six-year reign.

Unsurprisingly attendances also took a hit but McAvoy still believes there is an appetite for the competition, with this year’s McKenna Cup set to get under way on the weekend of December 29/30.

“I know that, straight after Christmas, people are just glad to get out and get back into the swing of things. That’s why you do get decent attendances of the weather’s good – now last year we were a bit bedevilled by it but we still managed to get the final played.

“This year we’ll have slightly different dates, we’ll be starting it that wee bit earlier, take away one of the midweek games and replace it with a weekend game, so that hopefully might help.

“At that time of year weather will always be a factor but, as we saw last year, the worst weather we had was in March.”

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