Spring signals start of new Championship format as dates for new Sam Maguire round-robin series are confirmed

Derry captain Chrissy McKaigue after beating Donegal in the Ulster Senior Football Championship Final at Clones on Sunday May 29 this year Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
Paul McConville

The 2023 Ulster senior football final will take place on May 14 with the beginning of the new All-Ireland SFC round-robin series getting underway a week later.

This year's Ulster final between Derry and Donegal was played on the last weekend in May, but the provincial final has been brought forward a fortnight to facilitate the new Championship format.

The Sam Maguire Cup round robin will feature 16 teams, in four groups of four with provincial champions top seeds in each group. Group runners up will play third-placed teams from other groups in preliminary quarter-finals with the four winners from those ties going on to play the four group winners in All-Ireland SFC quarter-finals. The All-Ireland SFC final will be on July 30 - a week later than this year.

Given that Westmeath guaranteed themselves a place by winning this year's Tailteann Cup and the draw for the Connacht SFC guarantees a county from outside the top 16 National League teams a place in the final, and thus a spot in the top tier of the senior championship, the two teams gaining promotion to Division Two will miss out, unless they too qualify for their provincial final.

New Antrim manager Andy McEntee told the Irish News last week that the situation exposes the 'folly' of the Championship draw. Four Ulster counties - Antrim, Cavan, Down and Fermanagh - will begin the year in Division Three, knowing that even if they win promotion, they are likely to have to compete the Tailteann Cup, which will also be in a round-robin format.

The GAA released their master fixtures on Thursday afternoon which shows the first round of Tailteann Cup matches taking place on the same weekend as the Ulster and Leinster Senior Football finals - May 13 and 14, with the final scheduled for the weekend of July 15/16

The Allianz Football League starts on the weekend of January 28/29 while the Allianz Hurling League begins a week later. Finals in the Allianz Football League will take place on weekend of April 1/2 as while Allianz Hurling League finals in Divisions Two and Three while the NHL Division One final will be played a week later.