Ulster GAA revise their preliminary round open draw

As of 2020 there will be no open draw for the Ulster senior football championship

Donegal take on Cavan in Ballybofey on May 13th. Photograph: Inpho

Ulster GAA have announced a structural change to their senior provincial championship, whereby the competition’s preliminary round draw will no longer be an entirely open one.

The changes to the Ulster senior football championship will come into place from 2020. Before this the preliminary round - one match to decide who will make up the quarter-final pairings - has been an open draw involving all nine Ulster counties. The first two names out of the pot made up the preliminary fixture.

As of 2020 however, the two teams who played in the previous year’s opening fixture will be exempt from the draw for two years. Therefore from 2022 only five counties will be included in the preliminary round draw.

Ulster GAA provincial secretary Brian McAvoy believes the current system “favoured” some counties. In explaining the rationale for the change he said;


“In my annual report to the Ulster convention in January I highlighted the fact that Ulster was the only province that operated a ‘straight’ draw and that each of the other provinces had some ‘conditions’ attached to their football championship draw.

“This in itself was not a valid reason for change but a close study showed how the championship draw ‘favoured’ some counties over others when it came to preliminary round appearances. Cavan for example have played in the preliminary round on seven occasions since the millennium, while Derry have been drawn to play in it on just two occasions.

“While some may validly argue that this is just the luck of the draw, the statistics paint a picture which shows that teams which contest the preliminary round have a very poor record when it comes to actually winning the Ulster title. On only four occasions has a team that played in the preliminary round gone on to win the Ulster title; Cavan in 1945, Armagh in 2005 and Donegal in 2011 and 2012.”

The decision of the Ulster CCC is not retrospective, so nine counties will be included in the draw for the 2019 Ulster championship.

In last year’s preliminary round Monaghan beat Fermanagh, the latter exited the All-Ireland series in the first round of the qualifiers. Monaghan were stunned by Down in the Ulster semi-final before a heavy All-Ireland quarter-final defeat to Dublin.

On May 13th this year’s Ulster championship kicks off with Cavan taking on Donegal in Ballybofey.

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue

Eamon Donoghue is a former Irish Times journalist