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June 14 is D-Day for the GAA in terms of whether they can run off the inter-county Championships without major disruption this year.
With the New York-Galway and London-Roscommon games, originally fixed for the first week of May, now postponed, that gives the GAA five weeks of leeway from the current Championship start date of May 9 that would still allow the competitions to conclude on schedule, albeit with some tweaking of formats.
“We would probably do everything in our power to keep the All-Ireland finals where they are currently scheduled so the hurling final is scheduled for the 16th of August and the football final for the 30th of August,” said Feargal McGill, the GAA’s director of games administration yesterday.
“I would imagine as long as we get back on the playing field and as long as we can start our inter-county championships before the middle of June, then we should be able to retain those dates.”
Anything beyond that and we’re looking at All-Ireland finals in September and possibly later, if at all, depending on how long the coronavirus-enforced lay-off lasts.
McGill said that the intention would be to allow teams at least a fortnight of collective training ahead of a Championship opener, so that would require the current restrictions on movement to be lifted by late May at the latest.
If this crisis has taught us anything it’s that you cannot safely predict anything but, even allowing for that, the prospect of normality being restored some two months from now seems unlikely.
What happens to the remainder of the Allianz Leagues?
A view Croke Park as the Coronavirus brings a stop to all Irish sport until at least March 29th
(Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne)
The GAA has yet to address that issue directly but, privately, the intention is to finish out the competitions, which have two rounds of regulation matches to go, followed by divisional finals, in football and divisional finals as well as Division One quarter-finals and semi-finals in hurling.
Although the LGFA shelved their equivalent competitions, along with a number of others, earlier this week, the GAA is keen to see the Leagues to a conclusion, particularly where promotion and relegation issues are at stake.
Although the prospect of playing League games before this year’s Championship hasn’t been completely ruled out, it’s almost certain that if the competition is resumed it will be at the back end of this year or maybe even early in 2021.
What would that mean for the tier two football Tailteann Cup?
With final League standings not determined ahead of the Championship, the GAA would have little option but to scrap the much maligned concept for this year and instead allow all counties to compete in the All-Ireland qualifiers, which would have to be expanded from two rounds to four again.
Would the Championships still have a round robin element?
“We’d probably have to look at straight knockout provincial championships in both football and hurling but potentially with a back door as well,” said McGill, on the presumption of the Championships starting in mid-June.
The round robin format in Munster and Leinster hurling would obviously be the fall guy in that scenario, though the ‘Super 8s’ All-Ireland quarter-final phase in football could come under pressure too.
What about a straight knockout Championship?
That will become increasingly likely in both codes if mid-June comes and goes with no games having been played.