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Ulster GAA announce provincial championship restructure from 2020

A tweak will be made to the Ulster SFC preliminary round.

ULSTER GAA HAVE announced plans to tweak the format of the provincial senior football championship from 2020.

The Anglo Celt Cup ahead of the game Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Traditionally Ulster’s preliminary round match-up was determined by an open draw, where the first two teams out of the pot play for a place in the quarter-finals.

But the restructure will see the sides that contest the province’s opening fixture exempt from playing in it for the following two years.

After a ‘close study’ Ulster GAA found that the championship draw ‘favoured’ some counties over others when it came to preliminary round appearances. Cavan, for instance, played in the round seven times in the last 18 years, while Derry featured just twice.

“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 in a statement.

“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.”

Colm and Sean Cavanagh raise the Anglo Celt Cup Tyrone's Colm and Sean Cavanagh raise the Anglo Celt Cup last July Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Nine counties will be included in the draw for the 2019 Ulster SFC and the teams that contest next year’s first round will be exempt from the draw for the preliminary round of the 2020 and 2021 competitions.

Seven counties will be included in the preliminary draw for the 2021 championship and from 2022 onwards there will be just five counties in the draw.

Cavan travel to Donegal in this season’s preliminary round on 13 May.

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Kevin O'Brien

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