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Ulster secretary McAvoy plays down idea of open draw idea, claiming it would be 'absolutely bonkers'

 

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Road trip: If Antrim were to play Kerry it could cause major headaches, says Brian McAvoy

Road trip: If Antrim were to play Kerry it could cause major headaches, says Brian McAvoy

�INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Road trip: If Antrim were to play Kerry it could cause major headaches, says Brian McAvoy

The idea of staging an open-draw intercounty football Championship this summer has been labelled as 'absolutely bonkers' by the Ulster Council Provincial Secretary and CEO, Brian McAvoy.

In recent weeks it has been suggested by voices in the media, and indeed by reigning All-Ireland winning manager Dessie Farrell, that the GAA could experiment with an open draw.

"I definitely think the competition structure is the big one and this might not go down well, particularly in Ulster, but I am no longer a fan of the provincial system," said Farrell.

"I think if we could move beyond that and even experiment for a season or two, be it an open draw or whatever we come up with.

"There's enough bright people in the organisation to land on something that I think would work and be very successful and really engage a) the players first and foremost in terms of whetting the appetite for meaningful competition but b) the wider GAA base, the supporters and the public.

"I do think there's a blank canvas there if you like to be very creative and come up with something that could be really very special and set us apart from all the other competition in the sports arena."

However, that idea was given short shrift by McAvoy, who explained: "An open draw Championship would actually be worse, it would mean more travel. For example, Down could be drawn to play Kerry or Waterford. It would mean a lot more travel.

"So whatever the merits of an open draw, an open draw in Covid times is absolutely bonkers."

He added, "For the times that are in it, you have to keep it within your own province. Any suggestion of having an open draw with Covid, it has absolutely no logic, it makes no sense and it undermines the public health message as well."

This week, the Central Competitions Control Committee, which includes Martin McHugh of Donegal, are set to meet and decide the format of whatever competitions are to take place now that county teams are able to return to collective training on April 19.

While it would appear the football Championship will be run on provincial lines, the situation is far from clear for Antrim hurlers, who are competing in the Liam MacCarthy Cup in the Leinster Championship and could draw Kilkenny, Galway, Wexford, Dublin or Laois.

"I think you could take it that the league will start sometime in May time. I don't think it will be any different from what was proposed - the two groups of four in each division in football," explained the Ulster CEO.

"There may be very different options there in hurling, they maybe have to look at that potentially. But, either way, you would be expecting to see around the middle of May a start to the leagues in both hurling and football.

"As to what format the Championships will take? Who knows? I think you could rule out any chance at this stage of the third year of the trial for the Super 8s.

"So the third year hasn't taken place yet. It may not be until 2022. It was to be 2018, '19 and 2020 and of course it could not happen last year and I would say it is safe to say it will not be in 2021 either."

While the third year of trialling the Super 8s quarter-final round robin is on hold, the chances are that the Tailteann Cup might also be dispensed with - for now anyway.

"So in terms of football and the Championship, you have straight knock-out or the back door. You are seeing in some quarters people are suggesting to play the intercounty league, then play a club season and have an intercounty Championship at the end of the year," says McAvoy.

"I just think with the appetite for a split season, people would not want to go back on it now. I think it will be intercounty, followed by club."

McAvoy was also as surprised as everybody else on Thursday when pictures and reports emerged of some of the All-Ireland champion Dublin team taking part in what looked like an organised training session, and urged counties and clubs in Ulster to be vigilant in following the public health and GAA guidelines.

"I do not want to pre-judge any enquiries there are to be but it looks as if there was some sort of a session involving some members of the squad," he stated.

"I know Dublin themselves have taken action (in announcing they are banning senior football manager Dessie Farrell for 12 weeks), but I would assume Croke Park would also be looking to as well.

"The message is very clear: there is a ban on both intercounty and club. It's not only the GAA ban, but it's a government ban in both jurisdictions."

Belfast Telegraph


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