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Hats off to the players in these strange times

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Action from the St Mary's v Geraldines match: Ciarán Keenan, St. Mary’s, knocks the ball past Geraldines’ Sean McEneaney for a goal. Picture: Ken Finegan/Newspics

Action from the St Mary's v Geraldines match: Ciarán Keenan, St. Mary’s, knocks the ball past Geraldines’ Sean McEneaney for a goal. Picture: Ken Finegan/Newspics

Ken Finegan/Newspics

Action from the St Mary's v Geraldines match: Ciarán Keenan, St. Mary’s, knocks the ball past Geraldines’ Sean McEneaney for a goal. Picture: Ken Finegan/Newspics

The 2020 Louth championship season got underway little over three weeks ago but we're already down to the last four in each of the three football competitions.

The condensed nature of this year's championship didn't really appeal to me when it was initially unveiled.

I was a bit sceptical how such a tight timetable would play out. Players and clubs would see fixtures coming at them thick and fast with little or no leeway for injuries or suspension.

Many clubs complained about the reduced capacity for the opening weekend citing difficulties selecting one loyal club member over another in the allocation of limited tickets but that headache was quickly solved a week later.

The imposition of increased Government restrictions meant a complete prohibition of supporters.

There's no denying that the atmosphere at the behind closed doors matches in Darver has been a little eerie at times but that has been more than made up for by the quality of football on offer.

Fair play to the players.

They've really embraced the new format and many of them have really thrived. The Louth senior team is going through quite a fallow period at the moment but the county management team should now have plenty to mull over when they sit down to select their panel for the upcoming winter schedule.

There were no real surprises in last weekend's quarter-finals.

My eight predictions at senior and intermediate all made it safely through however my old club Clans can count themselves extremely unfortunate not to have advanced following penalty shoot-out agony against Sean O Mahonys.

Na Piarsaigh suffered a similar fate in the Junior quarter-finals losing 4-3 on spot kicks to Naomh Fionnbarra.

Not a nice way to end your season but all clubs know and accept the game must now be decided on the day.

In the current climate, instead of extra time and penalties perhaps the next score is a fairer option if sides finish level at the end of normal time.

LúTV again provided excellent coverage for the Intermediate games on Saturday but I was present in Darver for the opening two senior games on Sunday.

Ollie McDonnell's young Joes side started brightly against the Blues but they were no match for the battle hardened Drogheda outfit after the break.

Some chinks were evident in the Blues armour during the group stages but normal service was restored yesterday. They will take some beating on this evidence.

The second game saw St Mary's ease through to the last four as they proved much too strong for a subdued Geraldines XV. In an excellent performance, particularly from their younger crew, they led by 16 points (4-10 to 0-06) midway through the second period before the Haggardstown men restored some respectability in the final quarter.

St Mocthas and Naomh Martin were winners later in the day with Fergal Reel's side again hugely impressive.

Last night's eagerly awaited semi-final draw has thrown up a repeat of the group stages clashes where there was little or nothing between the four sides. It also sets up the prospect of a repeat of the 2018 and 2019 deciders.

With Shane Lennon and Tadhg McEnenaey continuing to rack up big scoring tallies, Kilkerley look the team to beat in Intermediate.

They've been drawn against St Fechins next weekend with St Brides facing Sean O Mahonys in the other semi-final.

Lannleire face Glyde Rangers and John Mitchels take on Finbarrs in the Junior grades last four.

There will be great excitement this week in all twelve clubs who are contesting championship semi-finals but spare a thought for the eight clubs who're fighting to stave off relegation.

No disrespects to O Connells or O Raghallaighs but Mattock and Dreadnots would've seen themselves as real Senior championship contenders in 2020.

Instead they find themselves now in a relegation dogfight with one of them guaranteed to go down to the wire.

The same can be said in Intermediate for former Senior championship kingpins Cooley Kickhams who are in danger of dropping to Junior.

Oliver Plunketts will by now means be a pushover in their playoff game on Saturday with Roche and Glen Emmets scrapping it out on the other side of the draw.

Well done to the County Board and all involved on the safe and smooth running of the competitions so far at Darver and other venues.

Ten more games this weekend and good luck to all twenty clubs involved. My picks are Blues, Mairtins, Kilkerley, Sean O Mahonys, Lannleire, Finbarrs, Dreadnots, O Raghallaighs, Cooley and Glen Emmets.

The Argus