Sigerson Cup would be better before Christmas: Kieran Donnelly

Kieran Donnelly guided Fermanagh to Division Two this year
Fermanagh boss Kieran Donnelly fears the GAA is running the risk of players picking up long-term injuries by staging the Sigerson Cup once the inter-county season is under way

THE GAA should consider holding the Sigerson Cup before Christmas in order to avoid the possibility of “long-term injuries,” according to Fermanagh boss Kieran Donnelly.

Finding the best place for the Sigerson in the GAA calendar has long been a subject of debate, and Donnelly feels too much is being asked of players to serve two masters once the inter-county season is up and running.

Last year the former DCU manager, Professor Niall Moyna, called for a “big hard debate” around the future of university football, suggesting that the Sigerson Cup would have to go ahead without inter-county players if it was to continue.

And earlier this week, Queen’s boss Conor Deegan said “the whole thing is up in the air” due to players’ involvement with counties preparing for National League action.

“It’s madness at the moment, and something that needs to be addressed very quickly,” added the two-time All-Ireland winner with Down.

However, while Moyna claimed moving to a pre-Christmas slot was a non-runner due to clashes with club senior and U20 activity, Donnelly feels it is something that needs urgently addressed.

“I loved Sigerson when I was playing, but it’s probably the fact the games are in between,” said the Erne boss, who had Joe McDade, Josh Largo Elis, Ronan McCaffrey and Diarmuid King all involved in Sigerson action on Wednesday.

“We played on Saturday, did a recovery session on Tuesday, those lads play on Wednesday so, because we train Tuesday and Thursday, it really writes off two sessions.

“That’s the logistics, and I think it’s something they’re going to have to look at going forward - it’s probably the one thing that needs tailored. I know the bigger counties can maybe hemorrhage players a bit more, but they’re players we’re very much reliant on.

“We have a young squad so you’re going to have players involved and, especially for a smaller county, I feel we’re hit that bit more.”

Maynooth v Queen's
Queen's bowed out at the hands of Maynooth University on Wednesday night. Picture by INPHO

The solution? Donnelly believes switching around the universities’ two football competitions at this time of year could work.

“In fairness to the Sigerson managers, they’re very good to work with in that they don’t train the players. There’s a duty of care that way, whereas 15 years ago maybe we did both,” he added.

“I think the only thing that can happen is maybe they try to play the Sigerson before Christmas, then play the Ryan Cup in January, with non-county players. Because at the minute it’s unfair on the players - they are physically tired so it takes the enjoyment out of it a wee bit sometimes.

“It’s an issue they’re going to have to address, and pretty quickly, because otherwise you’re going to have long-term injuries.”

Meanwhile, both Sigerson Cup semi-finals will take place next Thursday at neutral venues.

Following Wednesday night’s straightforward victory over TU Dublin, Ulster University take on Maynooth University, who just edged past Queen’s courtesy of Eoghan Frayne’s matchwinner.

On the other side of the draw, UCD – 1-14 to 1-6 conquerors of University of Galway – will face University of Limerick after they saw off DCU to secure their spot in the last four.