The 2020 All-Ireland championships are going to be very different. But they could also look pretty familiar.
When the current shutdown eventually ends, the only option available to the GAA will probably be a retro-style straight knockout competition. For the first time since 1996 in hurling and 2000 in football, teams could have to cope without a back door.
The remainder of the leagues, qualifiers, the Super 8s, the provincial round robins and tier two will most likely bite the dust. Nobody will care. They'll just be glad to see some action. This year's championship will probably be the most appreciated of all-time.
It all depends on how effective the public health measures against the spread of the Covid-19 virus are. June is being widely mentioned as the month when sporting action will return. That seems slightly optimistic to me.
If sport does reappear in June, it will probably be in the form of behind-closed-doors contests in the likes of the Premier and Champions Leagues. That route looks an unlikely one for the GAA where community involvement is so central. The championships are part sporting event, part national carnival. A behind-closed-doors championship seems a contradiction in terms.
In any event the GAA would hardly be able to secure the kind of saturation TV coverage which would make a championship without crowds feasible. Particularly as once something akin to normal service resumes, the sporting calendar will be extremely crowded.
The best-case scenario would probably see the championships begin in July around the time the GAA would have expected the hurling quarter-finals and first round of the Super 8s to be played.
Given that the provincial football championship draws have already been made, the obvious solution would be to proceed as planned but with the traditional straight knockout system.
Another alternative would be to play the competition in an open draw format, like the Centenary Cup in 1984. But this would not be much less time-consuming than the provincial system whose familiarity would be a great comfort to supporters this year. The fact that last year's Super 8s contained two counties from each province suggests that whatever about numerical disparities, elite talent is almost equally distributed between them.
Some counties could get a raw deal. Cork footballers might face immediate elimination in their Munster semi-final against Kerry. Westmeath's entire championship summer would consist of one drubbing by Dublin. And the losers of the Monaghan-Cavan and Tyrone-Donegal clashes would also feel they'd been dealt a bum hand. But what can you do? This is the best-case scenario we're talking about. The worst-case scenario might result in the championship being cancelled altogether.
Once things restart, time will be of the essence. The window available to the GAA is unlikely to be open past September. After that the approach of winter would raise the spectre of a Covid-19 resurgence. The priority would be to get the championships finished as quickly as possible. Worries about unfairness would have to be ignored. The circumstances are unparalleled in GAA history.
A new draw would need to be made in the hurling championship with one quarter-final and two semi-finals in both provinces. Then there's the question of club championships where it's likely that clubs will have to play without their inter-county players.
The restoration of club action may in a way be more important than what happens at inter-county level. The resumption of fixtures would be a morale boost for communities wearied by the battle against the virus. It would be a visible harbinger of a return to normality.
One result of a straight knockout championship would be that the Dublin-Kerry All-Ireland football final regarded as inevitable couldn't happen. The three-year cycle of provincial champion match-ups meant the big two were due to meet in the Super 8s this year.
Now if they meet, it could be in the semi-final which would be good news for the likes of Mayo, Galway and the winners of that Donegal-Tyrone match. And perhaps also for Kerry who would relish the chance of catching Dublin on the hop in a one-off game, as they almost did last year. The change in format might well diminish the Dubs' six-in-a-row chances.
A dream Limerick-Tipperary All-Ireland hurling final could also be off the menu. They might even meet in a winner-takes-all Munster quarter-final. The prospect of having just one game against Munster opposition would surely be a boost for Wexford, Kilkenny and Galway.
There's a school of thought which reckons this is no time to be wondering who's going to win what in sport. In fact, this is exactly the time to be wondering about such things. There'll be no surer route to insanity over the next couple of months than thinking about coronavirus morning, noon and night.
All over Ireland, people are keeping the national show on the road by doing their jobs to the best of their ability. So it seems self-indulgent for sports journalists to adopt an 'I'm too sensitive to care who wins a match ever again' attitude.
Given our complete lack of expertise in the fields of science or public health, we can add nothing useful to the vast heap of pandemic pontification. We're AZ 67 rather than Covid-19 people.
But sport is still worth writing and thinking and arguing about, not least because its return to a field near you will be one of the signs which shows the country has come through. The colours of your local club jersey will be like the rainbow Noah saw after the flood.
So roll on the championships. Whatever the format, they're worth looking forward to.
The floodlights have gone out all over the world, we will not see them lit again for some time. So sudden and sweeping has been the global shutdown, it's tempting to think of this as an unprecedented period in sporting history.
I watched a recording last Thursday night of an Aussie Rules match between Richmond and Carlton. It was the opening match of the new season, with Richmond starting as champions from 2019. The game was played in the Melbourne Cricket Ground, which is a massive stadium with a capacity of around 100,000. It looked amazing. Mainly because it was empty.