GAA Football

Ulster Council not expecting provincial Championship start before November

Donegal may not being the defence of their Anglo-Celt Cup until November
Andy Watters

THE Ulster Council is not planning for a provincial Championship in this financial year, meaning that if there are All-Ireland campaigns in 2020, they are not expected to start before October 31.

With club action due to return before the inter-county season resumes, Ulster secretary Brian McAvoy explained that the Ulster Council does not expect the Championship season to start for at least another six months.

“We are not envisaging an Ulster Championship commencing in this accounting year,” he said.

“The GAA accounts run from 1st of November to the 31st of October and we’re planning on the basis that there will be no Championship in that time scale. It would be a bonus if we get a Championship earlier than that but, given the fact that the club season is likely to come first (if there is one) we think it’s highly-unlikely that we’ll have any sort of a Championship within our current accounting year.”

GAA President John Horan said yesterday that the All-Ireland Football and Hurling Championships could both run into next year. McAvoy added that the races for the Sam Maguire and Liam MacCarthy Cups could be run in eight weeks. If so, they would both revert to the pre-Qualifier model, meaning no back door, no Super 8s, no replays and no two-tier system. The four provincial finalists would meet in the All-Ireland semi-finals with the winners contesting the decider.

“We can do an eight-week Championship,” said McAvoy.

“From the first round of the Ulster Championship to the All-Ireland final can be done in eight weeks. It’s far from ideal, it means every game has to finish on the day, but it can be done.

“Potentially you could have the situation, if we do get a Championship going in the calendar year 2020 (and that’s a big if) that you could have some games played before Christmas, although we could have them all played, and you have to do a rollover until January or maybe even February to finish things off.

“That’s a possibility but obviously you don’t want to interfere too much with next year’s programme either, if there is one.

“It’s all up in the air but as every day passes it pushes the date for a return back further and further. Ultimately, and this is the key thing, we will be guided by what the health authorities say and if they say it’s not safe to play then we won’t be playing.”

Speaking to RTE yesterday, GAA president Horan said the GAA had not discussed the idea of testing inter-county panel for the Covid-19 virus to allow them to train together. He describing the story as “somewhat irresponsible” but added that the 2020 inter-county season could run on into 2021, a scenario that would almost certainly mean no Dr McKenna Cup next year and could mean that the National Leagues were pushed back.

"We're open to that if that's a possibility," he said.

"We'd just adjust the 2021 season. I think there's a hunger and an appetite out there among both players and spectators to see the games being played.”

ULSTER GAA Council secretary Brian McAvoy wishes to make it clear that comments attributed to him in Saturday’s Irish News had been made 10 days previously.

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