Kerry football manager Peter Keane will have six uninterrupted weeks with his panel ahead of the county’s Munster semi-final against Cork, a knockout fixture Kerry chiefs have no issue with Cork having home advantage for.
The final of the Kerry SFC is to be played on the weekend of September 26/27, meaning Keane will have three weeks with his full panel ahead of the league resuming and six, in total, to prepare for the trip to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on November 7/8.
Not since 2000 have Cork and Kerry met in a knockout provincial fixture, the Kingdom coming out on top in that particular Munster semi-final 20 years ago.
Although the venue for the Munster semi-final on November 7/8 has yet to be confirmed by the Central Competitions Control Committee, it is widely expected the game will take place at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
Kerry county board chairman Tim Murphy said yesterday Kerry will honour the home and away arrangement between the counties, under which it is Cork’s turn to play host. There was no mention of a neutral venue on account of it being a knockout championship fixture.
The Cork footballers travelled to Killarney on three occasions while Páirc Uí Chaoimh was being redeveloped between 2015 and 2017. The first of those visits to Fitzgerald Stadium was for the 2015 Munster final, a fixture Kerry would have hosted irrespective of Páirc Uí Chaoimh's availability given the previous year’s meeting between the counties was played at the old Ballintemple venue.
The 2015 Munster final replay and the 2017 provincial decider were also played at Fitzgerald Stadium, meaning Kerry owed Cork two home games when Páirc Uí Chaoimh reopened.
That debt was paid in 2018 and 2019, with the longstanding home and away arrangement between the counties kicking back in this year.
“Assuming everything remains as is, the game will be going ahead at Páirc Uí Chaoimh and absolutely, we will honour our agreement with Cork,” said Kerry chairman Murphy.
GAA president John Horan said the suitability of county grounds will be assessed in advance of the championship.
“Venues will be what’s suitable to get a reasonable crowd into it. The crowd situation is all dependent on the recommendations we get from the health authorities in terms of what we can put into grounds.”
Meanwhile, Clare football manager Colm Collins, who has been critical in the past of the provincial system, would have preferred a 32-county open draw.
“Some of us would have loved to have seen what would have happened with an open draw. It is what it is now. There is no point in even going down that road talking about it,” he remarked.
Although not opposed to straight knockout, he described the absence of a backdoor as “very unforgiving”.
“You’ll get your one chance and that’s it. It is going to be hectic. I think it was important to wrap it up in the calendar year. Asking players to go directly from one season to another wouldn’t have been fair. Thankfully, it will be finished in the calendar year.
“It is not so long ago where there was no such thing as a second bite of the cherry, I don’t think it is any big deal [that there is no backdoor].”
On the decision to finish the league, he added: “The thing is that some counties, including ourselves, will have a lot more to play for than others. Some counties will be able to ignore the league and just concentrate on the championship. But, look, you could be picking holes in everything. At the end of the day, I think it is a good idea to finish the league.”