The Ulster Senior League Secretary, Niall Callaghan, says the high-octane, exciting end to the season will make for great viewing for local football enthusiasts.
The race for the League title could yet go to a play-off with much riding on Sunday’s meeting of Letterkenny Rovers and Cockhill Celtic at Leckview Park (2pm).
A win or a draw for Cockhill will give Gavin Cullen’s team the honours, but a Rovers win would force a play-off.
Rovers had the upper hand in the Knockalla Caravans Cup final and the two are set top meet on Saturday-week, June 2, at Maginn Park in the Donegal News USL League Cup final (6pm).
The USL confirmed on Thursday that they have pencilled in a possible play-off for Wednesday, June 6, at Dry Arch Park with a 7.30pm kick-off.
“Regardless of how the results pan out over the next couple of weeks, it has been a very exciting end to the season,” Mr Callaghan said.
“There were three teams – Cockhill, Letterkenny and Fanad United – all fighting it out at the top of the table and it’s down now to two, Cockhill and Letterkenny. As the Knockalla final showed, there isn’t much between them and supporters will definitely get good value out of the finish to the title race and the Cup final.”
The USL’s busy fixture schedule came in for sharp criticism in the media in recent weeks, but Callaghan has issued a strong rebuttal.
Ahead of the final weekend of the regulation League season, he said: “Some recent comments were out of order and disrespectful to the League and its officers.
“The fixture list was, on a couple of occasions, referred to as a ‘mess’ and the League feels strongly about those remarks. Such comments in the public domain, especially when they are inaccurate, do not reflect well on the League.
“The reality of it is, between September 3rd, when we started the season, and June 3rd, the weekend of the Cup final, we have 40 weekends to schedule games.
“Including in those 40 weekends, we have to take into account our own Cup competitions, FAI Intermediate Inter-Provincial tournament, FAI Intermediate and FAI Senior Cups.
“Letterkenny Rovers have had a very successful season so far, reaching two Cup finals, getting to the Intermediate Cup semi-final and qualifying for the Senior Cup.
“Of the 39 Sundays, Letterkenny played 12 non-USL games and had five postponed/cancelled games – four of those due to the unprecedented weather. There were two weekends with no USL games due to the Intermediate Inter-Provincials and the League takes a three-week break at Christmas. There are also two free weekends, owing to the uneven number of teams in the USL.
“That left 15 weekends to play a total of 22 Ulster Senior League games – 18 League and four League Cup fixtures. Those numbers alone are enough to show how tight our timeframes have been this season.
“Our fixtures secretary, Jason Gibson, has put countless hours into the scheduling of games and the appointments of referees. Comments such as those aired in recent weeks serve only as disrespecting the diligent work that Jason carries out. Several amendments had to be made to the schedule after teams advanced in various competitions towards the latter end of the season.
“A suggestion was made recently to start the season earlier, but people should be reminded that when one recent season began in August and midweek games were pencilled in that, too, became a big issue with clubs at the time.”
There are currently seven teams competing in the USL and Mr Callaghan added: “The officials in the League are striving to keep intermediate football alive in Donegal and are actively engaged in dialogue with the FAI to this end.
“The USL has been going since 1986 ur primary aim is to ensure that intermediate football remains in Donegal.”Tags: