If the world hadn’t been gripped by Covid-19 this would be All-Ireland hurling final weekend, a relatively new date for the game’s showpiece event but one which it had settled quite easily into, following Limerick and Tipperary’s successes in back-to-back years.
If the virus can be suitably suppressed and eventually overcome to allow some degree of normality to return, perhaps a mid-August All-Ireland hurling final can again be slated in 2021.
But after that? Change is in the air again.
GAA president John Horan put together a fixtures calendar review task force to look at inter-county structures and how the dates align with time available to clubs.
They came up with three proposals last December to put to counties, all of which still retained an April club window and concluded championships by the end of August/early September. The task force was due to present these to counties on roadshows before restrictions kicked in.
This group meet again on Wednesday and this time they’ve been specifically asked to examine the mechanics of a split season, one which would front-load all of the inter-county programme in the first half of the year with club action to follow in the second half, allowing unfettered access to players for county teams and clubs without the divisive crossover that has prompted so much discussion over the last two decades since the onset of qualifiers and expanded championships.
It would be a radical step, one which the Gaelic Players Association (GPA) supports with a recent call for the inter-county season to be developed between mid-February and July.
For Horan, a new reckoning has been simmering since early July with the engagement clubs have enjoyed with their players over the last eight weeks and that crucial meeting of county chairs in early July when the difficulty of separation hit home.
"What heightened more awareness for us was possibly the chairperson’s meeting, where it was quite obvious they were faced with a great challenge to separate the club programme from the inter-county training," said Horan.
"We are all realists to know that every county team looks at the opposition and watches to see where they can gain a marginal advantage over the other," he added.
At that meeting, the chairs were told that some personal responsibility would fall on them in their own counties to ensure that rules would be observed.
"Everybody took it on board, but not withstanding that there were still some wondering about exceptions on this and that. It made it very clear to myself and Tom Ryan (director general) that when the fixtures task force was recommencing its work in August that it would actually take another look at the whole scheduling of it."
It was then that Horan began to consult with many of those chairpersons and he detected a renewed mood for change on a few fronts with the difficult balance of the April club window a recurring theme.
"It was important that we gave that directive (to penalise inter-county training transgressions), but to me it showed the pressure that county chairs were under in their voluntary role to get the balance between a county team preparing as well as it could knowing that maybe someone else wasn’t being as strict about it.
"In light of that and the positive impact on the clubs that has been so evident in recent weeks, we are duty-bound to look into split seasons and see is it practical and implementable within the whole structure of the work that the committee is doing.
"Covid has brought a lot of changes in society in terms of how you work and how you function and from my conversation with numerous county chairs, and I have talked to quite a few of them and hopped this ball with them, they have all been quite positive to examining it on the basis that it could take a lot of conflict and stress out of their role and that of players."
Moving to a split season was already considered by the task force who drew the conclusion last year that such a format would disengage inter-county players from their clubs for too long.
The issue of further closing promotional windows for the games in August is something also worth considering, but Horan personally feels that the most recent three-week compression at the back end of the inter-county season has not had a damaging effect.
"There was always a concern in the Association that taking the All-Irelands out of September would be a doomsday scenario with the lack of promotion but that hasn’t happened, I don’t think it has harmed the Association in any way to have moved it.
"If we move it and give that April week back to the counties and give the clubs the benefit of that at the back end, it would give us what we have now and what we have now has created a great enthusiasm among the organisation.
"I am quite certain there will be people who have a different view on this, but having moved from September already and it didn’t cause much damage, I don’t think the resistance would be a great as the original move from September."
Horan accepts that the reasoning for the task force not originally proposing a split season was "fair", but the success of April for clubs, he said, has to be questioned in the context of the last few weeks.
"Such has been the clear delineation between the club and county in this period it has focused people’s minds.
"It’s to get a clean cut and the cleanest cut you will get is to put county first and finish the year with club.
"It could stop this looking over your shoulder and then watching your neighbour. Then everyone knows that everybody is doing the same thing at the same time and that they are not taking advantage of down times.
"Liam Lenihan (Munster Council chair) brought it up at the last Management Committee meeting and I gave him an assurance that we were already in train to look at it.
"And others on the management committee were of a similar view that the experience gained from clear access of players to clubs was such a huge boost they felt could we look at that. In some counties in April some players go completely back to their clubs, but I know in other counties they played with their clubs but still trained with the county.
"If this proposal was to come to fruition there are other positives, a shortened period of time would reduce the training-to-playing ratio for inter-county players which has always been seen as a burden. That’s a big plus from a player welfare point of view, as is a reduction in training in preference for rest with shorter frequency between games.
"It would reduce costs for county boards. Everybody accepts that rising costs for teams is just unsustainable and it has to be stopped and reversed.
"There are plenty of other avenues within the organisation to spend that money and I think nobody would complain at all. €30m to train inter-county teams? If you could turn that back it would be great and keep the pressure off a lot of board officers."
Creating a window is one thing, devising competition structures to fit that window makes the mechanics of this much more "complex," Horan accepts.
"They are not just straightforward and that’s the work the committee will have to look at," he said.
As to whether a new structure could be implemented in 2021, the president has doubts, citing 2022 as a more likely target.
"We don’t know how next year is going to start and it would probably be a bit risky to try and introduce a complete new structure in a period that is really uncertain.
"I just think Covid has brought us to rethink it but also gives us the uncertainty about the pathway ahead to say that we’re going to drive on and try to implement something new in 2021 would be probably biting off more than we can chew on the whole thing."