Question marks remain over much of 2021 Ulster SFC schedule
QUESTION marks remain over the scheduling of more than half of this year's Ulster Senior Football Championship matches.
Only the venues have been confirmed for the preliminary round and quarter-finals – and even then there's the usual 'either/or' over the last eight meeting involving the winners of that first match, Donegal or Down, in terms of where they will face Derry.
Ulster GAA's Competitions Control Committee (CCC) has at least definitively scheduled the semi-finals and the final, with the decider set to take place on Sunday August 1, although whether that will return to its traditional home of Clones after taking place at the Athletic Grounds in Armagh last year remains to be seen.
The semi-final venues will, as ever, be dependent on their participants, although it is known that the first one, involving Armagh or Antrim and Monaghan or Fermanagh, will be held on Saturday July 17. The second semi-final is scheduled for the following day, Sunday July 18, and will involve Tyrone or champions Cavan in a 'D-day' against one of Down, Donegal, or Derry.
All the earlier matches still have a degree of uncertainty/ flexibility about them, with only the venues and the weekend on which they will take place having been settled so far.
The demands of live television broadcasts will obviously have an impact on when certain games actually take place.
First up, on either Saturday June 26 or Sunday June 27, Down will host Donegal in the preliminary round at Pairc Esler in Newry.
The following weekend, July 3/4, will have the first two quarter-finals: Armagh against Antrim at the Athletic Grounds and Monaghan against Fermanagh in St Tiernach's Park, Clones.
Then, on July 10/11, Tyrone will welcome Cavan to Healy Park in Omagh while that same weekend the last of the quarter-finals will be at either Ballybofey or Celtic Park. If Donegal overcome Down then they will have home advantage against Derry; however, if Down beat Donegal then the Mournemen must travel to take on the Oak Leafers.
2021 Ulster SFC schedule:
Preliminary round –
June 26/27: Down v Donegal (Pairc Esler)
July 3/4: Armagh v Antrim (Athletic Grounds); Monaghan v Fermanagh (Clones);
July 10/11: Tyrone v Cavan (Healy Park); EITHER Donegal v Derry (Ballybofey) OR Derry v Down (Celtic Park).
Saturday July 17: Armagh/ Antrim v Monaghan/ Fermanagh (venue TBC);
Sunday July 18: Tyrone/ Cavan v Down/ Donegal/ Derry (venue TBC).
Sunday August 1 (venue TBC).