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Proposals for return to play for GAA


GAA grounds in the county, such as Kent Park, will soon see a welcome return of football and hurling action. Pic: Carl Brennan

GAA grounds in the county, such as Kent Park, will soon see a welcome return of football and hurling action. Pic: Carl Brennan

GAA grounds in the county, such as Kent Park, will soon see a welcome return of football and hurling action. Pic: Carl Brennan

GAA clubs in Sligo continue to mull over proposals from the county board's Competitions Control Committee (CCC) before a final decision is taken as to the layout club competitions later this year.

Although proposals were circulated to clubs last week, the attempts to draw up a calendar have been further complicated by the GAA's announcement on Saturday of a change in the return-to-play dates.

Under the original plan, club activity was scheduled to resume countrywide from July 31st; but the new information from the GAA, updated last week on foot of the government's announcement, says that club action can now resume as early as July 17th.

This gives county boards around the country an extra two weeks, quite literally, to play with, but the inter-county dates remain the same: county squads can resume training on September 14th, with inter-county games returning in some shape or form from October 17th.

The GAA has yet to release plans for inter-county competitions, but it is understood that they intend to play out the remainder of the Allianz Leagues as well as a championship.

Locally, the CCC has outlined two proposals for adult competition in football and hurling. A meeting was held with club representatives last Monday, at which the plans were discussed.

In football, the first option outlined by the CCC would entail a knockout club championship, beginning on the weekend of August 15th/16th.

The mechanics of a knockout draw would have to be worked out, but given that there are 10 teams in both the senior and intermediate grades, it would likely entail two preliminary round fixtures to narrow down the number of clubs to eight, and then progress from the quarter-final stage.

The championship finals in football under this structure are scheduled, as it stands, for September 26th/27th.

Alongside the championship in this scenario, the CCC proposes a truncated league in which Divisions One and Two would be split into two groups of five teams; in Division Three the eight team original league would be split into two groups of four.

It would be played in a round robin series, with the first fixtures (rounds one and two) currently slated for the first two weekends in August, and the remainder played out after the conclusion of the championship.

In each case, the top two teams from each section would play each other in league semi-finals to determine a winner. However, there would be no promotion or relegation.

In the second football proposal, two groups of five teams are proposed for the championship.

This would be similar to last year's format, though there would only be two places up for grabs in each group to progress to the knockout stage (semi-finals).

The bottom two teams in each group would enter the relegation play-offs; the third placed team would see their season end.

Under this proposal, the championship would start on August 8th/9th, with the group stage concluding on September 12th/13th. The finals are pencilled in for October 3rd/4th.

As well as the five-team group championship, the preliminary competitions - the Kiernan, Benson and Abbott Cups - would also take place.

They will pick up where they left off earlier in the year before the lockdown, with one round before the championship and the semi-finals and finals after.

The pre-season competitions are run on a knockout basis.

In hurling, there is a proposal to split the championship into two groups of three teams.

Starting on August 22nd/23rd, the top two teams in either group will qualify for the semi-finals, before the championship final on October 3rd/4th.

The Dermot Molloy Hurling league would also take place, on a knockout basis, starting on the August Bank Holiday Monday before being played to a finish after the championship.

Interestingly, in football, either plan guarantees every club at least five matches irrespective of how they perform. The number is three for hurling clubs.

The introduction of a knockout championship in football would represent a significant departure from the structure of recent years, but it would also add a certain sense of novelty to Sligo club football in the coming months.

Though the mechanics of the competition would have to be worked out, it would appear that should a knockout format be adopted, it could be possible for a club to win the championship by winning three matches, if they were to get a bye to the quarter-finals.

There will also be the added intrigue of the impact of the new rules on the return of club action. Despite being in place since the start of the year, the changes have had little or no roll out on the club scene for teams or referees given the absence of action since mid-March.

The advanced mark, which provides for a player who catches a ball from a kick pass of over 20 metres from the 45 metre line to win a free kick, essentially, is likely to be the most influential on the game.

The 10-minute sin bin for a black card instead of the player having to be substituted and the taking of kick-outs from the 20-metre line are the other new rules that will have to be considered.

A decision on the structure of club competitions in Sligo is expected next week, with teams around the country allowed to return to contact training from next Monday (June 29th) as per the GAA updated its return-to-play protocols. It is also expected that information on underage fixtures will be forthcoming in the coming weeks.

Sligo Champion