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Back door could mean All-Irelands in January


John Horan. Photo: Sportsfile

John Horan. Photo: Sportsfile

John Horan. Photo: Sportsfile

When the GAA briefed counties towards the end of April on fixtures planning, they made it clear that the structure would be a provincial championship knock-out with no back door, would take eight weeks to run on 'week-on-week' basis, integrating football and hurling, presumably with semi-finals and finals on alternative weekends.

Within a week or two of that briefing, any optimism around a restart for games appeared to deplete with concerns raised about contact in the context of social distancing protocols.

GAA president John Horan appeared to encapsulate this mood with his interview on 'The Sunday Game' acknowledging that as long as social distancing was a priority in the country, there would be a problem with the resumption of games.

That was then though. And as the GAA's director of games Feargal McGill acknowledged in last Friday's press briefing to outline the return to activity document it's 'foolish' to look too far ahead.

With the green light for resumption given, counties have begun to put shape on their own championships through August and September with several able to stick closely to the schedules they had already planned, albeit in a more condensed form. The idea that they would have to resort to straight knock-out to get it done has not materialised.

Inevitably, attention has turned to what shape the inter-county season could now take and whether that late April direction to a knock-out championship later in the year still holds. Or has the temptation to provide a second chance and push out a championship conclusion until well into January gathered enough momentum?

What the GAA has been largely consistent on is an aspiration to finish the two remaining rounds of the Allianz Football League, or at least those games that are deemed relevant to promotion and relegation and even in establishing divisional winners without finals.

With 2021 in the mix, the temptation to integrate a back door to both championships will be strong.

A January All-Ireland football final would push back the start of the leagues and, consequently, could see the 2021 championships completed in their more traditional September dates with realignment again in 2022.