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Special Congress set to offer more clarity on GAA season as Ulster Championship could face August date



All change: Donegal boss Declan Bonner is now looking further ahead

All change: Donegal boss Declan Bonner is now looking further ahead

�INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

All change: Donegal boss Declan Bonner is now looking further ahead

The uncertainty which has prevailed of late in relation to a resumption of on-field GAA activity is expected to be firmly banished at tomorrow's video link Special Congress.

While no motions as such are down for discussion, delegates will be asked to agree to a recommendation that the Management Committee is empowered to take decisions relative to the staging of this year's provincial and All-Ireland Championships.

Since it has already been confirmed that a resumption of inter-county action will not take place until July 1 "at the earliest", Congress will conduct an overview of the entire football and hurling Championship programmes with a view to rescheduling the fixtures itinerary.

The Ulster senior football competition was initially due to swing into action next month with the preliminary round meeting of Monaghan and Cavan on May 10 and the provincial Council had hoped to have the semi-final pairings known by May 24.

It is now anticipated that the Ulster series will be staged as early as possible after July 1, although it could be held over until August to take account of the holiday season.

Several Ulster managers including Lenny Harbinson (Antrim), Declan Bonner (Donegal) and Mickey Graham (Cavan) have been among those seeking clarity on just when the Championship might blast off but now that it has been deferred, there will still be anxieties in relation to the length of preparation period offered to teams.

Bonner is understandably particularly anxious to see the way paved for his Donegal side to get back into action given that they will be bidding to make it a hat-trick of Ulster titles.

"To be honest, all our plans have been focused on our Ulster Championship meeting with Tyrone next month but as that is not going ahead now we will have to look further into the future," said Bonner.

As things stand, there will be no club activity until May 5 at the earliest and even then there could be an extension to this impasse depending on the level of the coronavirus crisis.

As well as hoping to get club action off the ground again, the GAA is also committed to staging those matches in the various divisions of the Allianz Hurling and Football Leagues which could have a bearing on promotion and relegation issues.

In this respect, Mickey Harte's Tyrone look best-placed of the three Ulster sides in Division One to reach the final and Armagh and Cavan are neatly positioned to make the push for promotion from Division Two but Fermanagh are facing the drop into Division Three.

Down, who still have to meet Louth and Leitrim, look capable of taking the leap up into Division Two while Derry in contrast still harbour relegation fears.

Antrim, meanwhile, know that maximum points from their games against Wicklow and Waterford could see them haul themselves away from Division Four.

It is expected that tomorrow's Congress will also embrace an element of flexibility in determining the actual staging of particular competitions. In this regard, it is anticipated that the All-Ireland Football Championship Super 8s may be dispensed with while it is also expected that the Tailteann Cup, the proposed new second tier of the All-Ireland Football Championship, will not be launched until next year because of time constraints.

However, the fact that GAA chiefs have to all intents and purposes given a commitment to completing the Allianz League would suggest that this could copper-fasten the line-up of Division Three and Division Four teams for the competition if it were to be staged this year.

With April having initially been designated as a club-only month only for the entire club fixtures itinerary island-wide to have been eradicated, efforts will now be made to accommodate the club Championships in particular as early as possible, although the indications are that this could still be much later in the year.

Belfast Telegraph