Missing the ulster club championship?
The GAA have announced that there will be no provincial or All-Ireland club series, while Ulster Ladies are yet to decide. We got the view of a few of those likely to be impacted
PAUL HEARTY (Armagh)
FORMER Crossmaglen and Armagh goalkeeper Paul Hearty doesn’t feel that players in major clubs will be too disheartened by the fact that there will be no Ulster Club Football Championships this year.
Given their dominance in the Orchard county, the Rangers are one of a few clubs who harbor provincial ambitions as well as county. Other football teams like Slaughtneil, Kilcoo, Derrygonnelly and Scotstown are in a similar situation.
Hearty, who is a goalkeeper coach for Stephen Kernan’s Cross side, feels that it’s a case of any football will do this season given how glum the coronavirus situation appeared a few months ago.
“It’s disappointing that we can only go and win the county championship and not go on to Ulster – or whoever the champions are,” he said.
“It’s better than what it was a few weeks ago though when the outlook wasn’t great for having any football at all.
“We can go and have an Armagh Championship and go and celebrate it for three months, if you win it.”
Last week’s announcement from the GAA that the provincial and All-Ireland club championships were being postponed this year was not unexpected, and Hearty said that the county fixture list was always likely to win out.
“I think it’s a case of us being glad to see any football,” said Hearty, who started in goals for Cross during their last Ulster success in 2015.
“You can see where they are coming from. They probably had to curtail the club season because the county season makes a hell of a lot more money than the boys at the club.
“You have the television revenue and things like that, so it’s a decision being made from a business perspective more than anything else.
“The decisions are made and they’re never going to come from the club anyway. It is what it is and we can’t do much about it.
“I still feel that we’re lucky enough that we’re going to get at a rattle at something.
“We will take it for what it is, then sweep it under the carpet and hopefully next year everything is back to normal and we get a proper season for club and county.”
Hearty is also excited to see how the Orchard county get on in the knock-out Ulster Championship. He made his championship debut against Down in 2001 so he never featured in an Ulster game with no backdoor, and he is excited to see what happens.
“2001 was the first year of the Qualifiers,” he said. “It’s back to the good all days with everything on the line.
“It gives the underdog more of a chance. The favourite could have an off day and the underdog could play out of their skin.
“There could be a couple of surprises, which would be great. It would be interesting if a few big names bowed out early.”
RORY PORTEOUS (Fermanagh)
FOR Rory Porteous and the hurlers of Lisbellaw, the announcement that there would be no provincial and All-Ireland club championships opens up the possibility that they will not get the chance to line out for their club in 2020.
The Fermanagh side are in a unique situation. Their last county championship game was in 2013 when they defeated Lisnakea in the final. Since then, they have been nominated to compete in the Ulster series.
Now with that competition postponed, and a chance that their league fixtures will follow a similar path, there could be no games at all for the St Patrick’s club.
“Lisbellaw are the only senior team in Fermanagh,” he said. “Without any provincial championship we have no championship games to play.
“I’m wondering are we going to get any games at all. We play our league hurling in Armagh and that is still up in the air as far as I know.
“We only got the plan for Fermanagh club football fixtures on Tuesday night so there is still a bit of planning to be done.
“It’s an unusual situation because Lisbellaw has 25 to 30 county players. We make up the entire Fermanagh squad bar a few boys who play with clubs in other counties.
“Even though we all, or the most of us, play on the same team with Fermanagh, representing the club is always different from the county no matter what you spin it.
“It’s a strange one but we’re still hopeful that maybe we will get some league games.
“Fitting those in when we are going back to the inter-county scene is going to be tricky though. There is no other team really in the same situation as Lisbellaw.
“As much as things are becoming clearer, there are still a lot of things that we don’t know.”
Porteous will, however, get to play championship football with Maguiresbridge as they try and make their mark at intermediate level after last year’s Junior Championship success.
David Teague’s side will meet Donagh in an August quarter-final, and the player said that it was a relief that the fixtures are set to go ahead.
“We got out for our first training session there and it was great. We have a totally new management team and there is a new feel to the whole thing.
“It’s all kind of exciting to get back into it after such a long time away, there was a good buzz.
“We’re looking forward to getting another crack at intermediate. We played in three intermediate finals and lost all of them.
“That led to us dropping down to junior but now we are back up at that level again and we can see where we are at now compared to the last time we had played intermediate.”
NEASA BYRD (Cavan)
CAVAN captain Neasa Byrd believes the fact that every club player in the Breffni county is set to get championship football is good enough to deem the current season a success.
A few weeks ago any prospect of football looked unlikely, but Cavan LGFA held their championship draws on Tuesday night and the start of the season looms closer.
Unlike in men’s football and hurling, the prospect of an Ulster Club Championship also remains in place in the ladies’ game with a September 20 date mooted. Discussions are expected to continue later this week.
Despite Crosserlough being among the favourites for the Cavan Senior title, Byrd isn’t sure if a provincial club tournament is feasible in the coming months though.
“We were happy enough with the fact that we were going to play with our clubs in the Cavan Championship and then move onto the county season,” she said.
“It’s not something we have thought about too much. The club championship in Cavan is pretty competitive and we were just happy to hear that we were getting that.
“At least every girl in Cavan is going to get some sort of football, that’s the most important thing.
“If that means that for one year that there isn’t going to be an Ulster Club Championship then so be it.
“Next year is time enough and as long as people are playing something then that’s the main thing.”
Byrd returned to Crosserlough training in recent days and said that it was a huge relief – and not just because she could kick a ball around.
“It was absolutely brilliant,” she said.
“As well as the football is was great just to see people and for the social side aspect of it.
“We had huge numbers and that’s probably one of the reasons for that, people are just mad to get out.”
Byrd was named Cavan captain this year and is the first person from the Crosserlough club to be handed that particular honour.
She said that it’s certainly going to be a year to remember, but one hopefully that can still produce plenty of good memories on the football field.
“It’s going to be a year that we remember regardless of what happens in the football,” she said.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing what happens. It’s going to be very different but we will take it as it comes.
“There are a lot more important things than football right now but it’s nice to have it to take a break from all that is going on.”