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GAA missed a trick in not trying out an open draw

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It will be great to see the pitch closed signs coming down this week.

It will be great to see the pitch closed signs coming down this week.

SPORTSFILE

It will be great to see the pitch closed signs coming down this week.

Following some additional changes to the Association's Return to Play roadmap, GAA pitches across the country will reopen on Wednesday this week with non-contact training for adults and club fixtures will be allowed resume from Friday July 17th, two weeks earlier than originally planned.

Minor and underage activity now returns on Saturday with full contact training (including challenge matches) permitted for all from June 29th.

All participants must still complete the mandatory eLearning module and follow the recommended guidelines including health questionnaires and temperature checks.

Return to Play guidelines and procedures have placed additional financial strain on many clubs therefore last Friday's Government announcement to provide a funding package of up to €40m to assist the GAA, IRFU and FAI to return was much appreciated.

This week's return to action also involves quite a significant amount of work and extra responsibilities for club officers and coaches but the satisfaction of seeing the playing fields full of activity should make it all the time and effort worthwhile.

The decision to fast forward the resumption of GAA club fixtures by two weeks is particularly welcomed as it will give county committees some much needed breathing space to complete their programmes on time before the resumption of the intercounty season on October 17th.

The current plan for intercounty is believed to involved starting the Championship on the weekend of October 31st after the final two games of the league are completed. The new proposed All Ireland Final date is Sunday December 13th. Those who followed Gaelic football in the last millennium will be familiar with the proposed format - a provincial knockout competition with the four winners progressing to All Ireland semi-finals and final. No backdoors. No Super-8s.

After such a bleak outlook only a few months ago, its great to see our games finally return but I can't help wondering have we missed an opportunity to experiment with something different for this years All-Ireland series.

With such a reduced and condensed season, could we have tried an open draw for the 2020 Championship?

Before we start a huge debate on the issue I'm well aware that there are lots of pros and cons on each side of the argument.

Any reform of championship structures will always need the co-operation and support of the provincial councils. They are the power brokers within the association and are never too keen to entertain proposals which could dilute their influence.

The wheels of change move very slowly in those corridors of power.

However given the current COVID-19 environment and the unique circumstances we find ourselves in, you probably could have got any format through for this year's competition.

When, in late April/early May, it appeared highly unlikely there would be any intercounty or indeed even club fixtures in 2020, an open draw proposal may just have gained support and slipped through.

Prejudices and scepticism might just have been set aside on this one-off occasion as everybody craved the return of games of any description.

The Gaelic Players Association have also come out in favour of an open draw All-Ireland SFC.

I'm not saying the an open draw competition was guaranteed to be a roaring success but at least the format would be tried and we could reasonably assess its long term feasibility.

Nevertheless it's still great to be back.

Drogheda Independent