Tentative plans for post-crisis GAA fixtures

October or November All-Ireland finals with severely-reduced capacities are being strongly considered by the GAA as they attempt to map out the fixtures calendar.
Tentative plans for post-crisis GAA fixtures

October or November All-Ireland finals with severely-reduced capacities are being strongly considered by the GAA as they attempt to map out the fixtures calendar.

The Irish Examiner understands Croke Park are looking at recommencing activity with three to four weeks of club activity before the start of the inter-county championships.

Wholly dependent on guidelines and recommendations from the HSE, the GAA have sketched a schedule beginning in mid summer. One of the more optimistic proposals would see clubs return to action in late June before the Championship is started in mid to late July and the finals taking place in mid autumn.

Counties would be encouraged to use the time between club games to prepare their players at the same time playing for their clubs. This period would be regarded as doubling up as a second pre-season for inter-county players.

With the current heavier restrictions expected to be extended beyond this Sunday, there has been a growing acceptance in bodies such as the Central Competitions Control Committee that work has to focus on salvaging the season.

Now all but resigned to the provincial round-robin and Super 8/Tailteann Cup formats in hurling and football being incompatible with the time constraints, fixture planners are hopeful about staging knock-out competitions at provincial level for both the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cups with a second chance for defeated teams in the qualifiers.

Provincial or open draw straight knock-out restructures remain possibilities but there is a determination to give those counties in the Maguire and MacCarthy competitions a minimum of two games. Without any break weekend, the McCarthy championship under the previous qualifier structure involving the current 10 teams could be completed in as little as seven weekends while football, under the 2017 system, could be finished in 11.

There is also an acknowledgement that while there will be intense interest in the Championship, restrictions on mass gatherings are likely to remain in place for some time to come as the country hopes to avoid a second wave of coronavirus. Sources have speculated that capacities could initially be cut by as much as two-thirds.

Tomorrow marks four weeks since the GAA announced a cessation in Gaelic games activity. Three weekends of the inter-county activity in the form of the Allianz Leagues and the U20 All-Ireland football championship were lost, while at least three weekends ringfenced for club matches will have also fallen by the wayside by April 19.

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