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Ulster GAA announce structure change for 2020 Championship

A structural change is due to be made to the Ulster Championship from the 2020 season onwards.

The alteration surrounds the Preliminary Round as teams that are drawn to play in the Championship opener will be exempt from the fixture for the following two seasons.

Currently, the draw is open, meaning counties can be drawn in the Preliminary Round in successive seasons. The system can also lead to huge differences in the regularity with which counties feature in the opener. Cavan, for example, have played in the Preliminary Round seven times since the turn of the century, while Derry have featured only twice.

On just four occasions has a team featuring in the opener gone on to win the Ulster Championship; Cavan in 1945, Armagh in 2005 and Donegal in 2011 and 2012.

All nine counties will go into the draw for next year's Preliminary Round, seven counties in 2020 and five counties from 2021 onwards.

“It will come as no surprise that counties prefer not to be playing in the Preliminary Round and while some counties will in all probability continue to be ‘favoured’ by the draw more than others, this change will hopefully add some measure of equilibrium to the statistics," said Ulster GAA Provincial Secretary Brian McAvoy.

"While there is no ideal figure, a two-year exemption strikes the correct balance as a one-year exemption was unlikely to bring about much meaningful change, while a three-year exemption would result in just three counties being in the Preliminary Round draw and this would significantly increase the prospect of repeat pairings.”

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