When the GAA briefed counties towards the end of April on fixtures planning, a segment relating to potential inter-county contingency plans made it clear as to how it would look.
It flagged that it was 'no secret' that the structure would be a provincial championship knockout with no back door, taking eight weeks to run on a 'week-on-week' basis and integrating football and hurling, presumably with semi-finals and finals on alternate weekends.
Within a week or two of that briefing, any optimism around a potential restart for games appeared to deplete with concerns raised from virologists and health experts about contact in the context of existing 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, this is now. 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 knockout 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 knockout 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 that aspiration looks now like it will be realised.
By any permutation, it would be hard not to see two weekends required to tidy up any remaining league business in football. Saturday/Sunday October 17/18 and Saturday/Sunday October 24/25 looked primed for this as a precursor to any championship format. At the very least, round six would run on the weekend of October 17/18 with relevant round seven games dotted in at the earliest opportunity after that. The Division 1 hurling league would require three weekends to complete, not something that could realistically be facilitated in any scenario.
Taking two weekends to complete the league would then leave seven weekends up to December 12/13, the likely cut-off point for any 2020 championship action as playing games in the concluding stages of either championship on the weekend of December 19/20 would scarcely be plausible under any set of circumstances.
With eight weekends required to complete straight knockout championships, based on the current provincial formats - four provincial rounds to incorporate preliminary football quarter-finals in Ulster and Leinster and separate weekends for All-Ireland semi-finals and finals in football and hurling - pushing any championship conclusion into 2021 looks inevitable once a decision is made to complete both rounds of the league and avoid an All-Ireland football final on December 19 or 20. That's not allowing for adverse weather or even a break after the league completion or during a provincial championship.
With 2021 in the mix, the temptation then to integrate a back door to both championships will be strong.
By reverting back to the format that existed from 2001 to 2017, a further three weekends would be required for a football championship, jumping from six to nine weekends. The first two qualifier rounds could correspond with provincial semi-final and final weekends but after that, it would require separate weekends for rounds three and four to be completed ahead of All-Ireland quarter-finals which, in all probability, would likely be fixed for 2021 if they were pencilled in, probably around January 9/10 with semi-finals a week later and an All-Ireland final on the weekend of January 30/31.
Integrating a hurling back door is much more convoluted. The 2017 format doesn't apply because of the second-tier Joe McDonagh Cup which, according to the April briefing, would play out over its existing five-round schedule, providing four games each for the five participants.
In the time-frame, incorporating the McDonagh Cup winners in time for the latter stages of the MacCarthy Cup looks too much of a challenge.
Even resolving the conundrum of getting two qualifiers from two losing provincial quarter-finalists and four losing provincial semi-finalists to play All-Ireland quarter-finals against beaten provincial finalists has complexities that could soak up weekends and draw out a qualifier programme.
The Gaelic Players Association is currently surveying its membership on preferred formats, among other aspects of last Friday's plan. Questions around straight knockout or back door and a 2020 conclusion are included and the expectation is that a back door completed in the same year will be preferred. But that's not possible as it requires 11 weeks minimum between football and hurling with only 10 weekends in the window, including December 19/20.
A January All-Ireland football final conclusion would push back the start of the 2021 leagues and, consequently, could see the 2021 championships completed in their more traditional September dates with realignment again in 2022.
But whatever way it plays out, for some the longest season is just about to get under way, a cycle that could go on for 15 to 16 months with little opportunity to pause.