Vaccines are just a shot away but the GAA are still planning for a Covid-affected first half of 2021 and with that in mind a different face to the Allianz Leagues.
“I think it’s fair to say that (in 2021) I don’t think we’ll be able to play the full league in the format that we’ve known up to now,” said GAA director of player, club and games administration Feargal McGill back in September.
McGill is also secretary of the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) and that stance on next year certainly hasn’t changed in the interim with a shorter Allianz League schedule planned and July All-Ireland finals set to take place next year with clubs having their own exclusive period for the remainder of the year.
Both Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cups are expected to be played on a provincial/qualifier basis, starting in April.
The beginning of the Allianz Leagues will be later than recent years, commencing possibly on the weekend of February 20 and 21.
Early indications are that the competition could be done and dusted by the end of March, which would amount to approximately seven weekends.
Not only is time a precious commodity next year but literal space is too as the GAA are keen to keep travel to a minimum.
Therefore, the idea of splitting each football division in two on a geographical basis is being strongly considered whereby each team would have a minimum of three games with the top one or two in each group going into the knock-out stages and the bottom team in both being relegated.
For the benefit of the second tier Tailteann Cup that has yet to take place, the CCCC will be keen to retain the four divisions even if they split each of them into two.
However, they may not be in a position to do that if how they bisect the divisions is considered unfair. To be accused of sporting gerrymandering is not something the GAA want thrown against them. It may be that the second tier is again postponed for another year but then that might mean it is even never staged at all.
Amalgamating Division 1 with 2 and Division 3 with 4 would allow the CCCC to bring counties closer together, almost on a provincial basis.
It is that very idea which is one of the options put forward by the fixtures review committee for the 2022 season — provincial competitions followed by a league-based championship.
Group North: Armagh, Donegal, Monaghan, Tyrone.
Group South: Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Roscommon.
Group North: Down, Meath, Mayo, Westmeath.
Group South: Clare, Cork, Laois, Kildare.
Group North: Cavan, Derry, Fermanagh, Longford.
Group South: Limerick, Offaly, Tipperary, Wicklow.
Group North: Antrim, Leitrim, London, Sligo.
Group South: Louth, Carlow, Waterford, Wexford.
Division 1 and 2 combined
Group South: Clare, Cork, Galway, Kerry.
Group East: Dublin, Kildare, Laois, Meath.
Group North: Armagh, Down, Monaghan, Tyrone.
Group West: Donegal, Mayo, Roscommon, Westmeath.
Division 3 and 4 combined
Group South: Limerick, Longford, Offaly, Tipperary.
Group East: Carlow, Waterford, Wexford, Wicklow.
Group North: Antrim, Derry, Louth, London.
Group West: Cavan, Fermanagh, Leitrim, Sligo.