GAA Football

County-by-county: How and when club fixtures will be run

With the GAA having set July 31 as the date on which club games can resume, county boards the length and breadth of Ireland have been struck into action. Much debate has already been generated by the various plans of counties, which range from straight knockout championships to extended round-robin systems. Cahair O'Kane took a tour of the country to find out exactly what the state of play is in each county...

DERRY will implement a round-robin group stage that will be used to seed teams for the knockout stages, while Down will retain the same championship system as last year.

The Oak Leaf county will operate a unique system in which all 16 senior football clubs will be drawn into groups of four, but nobody will be eliminated before the knockout stages begin.

Each football club will be guaranteed four games under the system, while the hurling championship will also move to a round-robin system and both will run concurrently in the early weeks.

The Derry hurling final is set for September 20, with the football final will take place on October 11, while there will be no club leagues.

In Down, they will retain the back door system of recent years, where teams beaten in either of their first two games will get a second chance before it becomes knockout from the quarter-final on.

A league will also be run, beginning with three games for each club in the first seven days, while the later rounds will be played without county players and with no relegation or promotion.

Relegation will apply in terms of championship though, with their football championship to be run over five weeks from August 17 weekend to September 20. The hurling championship will be played on a round-robin basis with home and away games, with the top two teams qualifying for the final.

Antrim have made no decisions yet but are considering a move away from a straight knockout football championship, but Fermanagh are one of the few counties likely to stay with a knockout competition.

Club players in Tyrone are facing four games in the first nine days after the return on July 31, with a straight knockout championship intersecting the league from August 13 until the final on September 20.

Their 16-team senior league will be split into two groups of eight, and will continue into early October with relegation applying.

Dublin will be one of very few counties to jump straight into championship on the opening weekend, with games set to begin from July 31, although what format the championship will take remains unclear.

They had moved to a round-robin system last year but may revert to straight knockout, given the busy calendar for dual players.

Here is how each county is planning to deal with the 11-week window for clubs.

Ulster
Antrim
- Considering a move away from straight knockout SFC, albeit with no agreed format as yet
- SHC likely to continue in current round robin format
- No dates yet agreed

Armagh
- According to a report in Gaelic Life, clubs will be asked to back plans for a straight knockout championship, with final in late September
- Seven-round league to take place

Cavan
- Staying with last year’s system. One group of 12 teams, randomly drawn each week, each team plays four group games. Top eight qualify
- Final had been expected to take place on October 11, but may yet move forward
- Planning for a league, which may provide early games before championship begins

Derry
- Move from straight knockout football championship to four groups of four
- All 16 teams in SFC will get three group games and all will play in knockout stages as well
- Group stage effectively used for seeding, 1st v 4th, 2nd v 3rd
- SFC final set for October 11
- Hurling championship in two groups rather than knockout, final on September 20
- No leagues

Down
- SFC to be played on the same format as last year, with a back door for teams beaten early
- SFC to begin on weekend of August 17, final on September 20, all games up until the final finished on the day
- Relegation to apply
- Leagues will be split into two sections of five teams, with three rounds in seven days pre-championship. No relegation
- SHC on a round-robin basis with two rounds, home and away, with the top two teams qualifying for the final

Donegal
- SFC will include a group-stage, but deliberations continue over which format
- Options are to retain the four groups of four that currently exist, or go two groups of eight
- Latter option would mean 10 games for the winners

Fermanagh
- No final decision until inter-county plans are completed
- With only eight teams in SFC, unlikely to move away from straight knockout championship
- Possibility for replays given short timeframe required
- Options being explored to build a league around championship
- No SHC

Monaghan
- SFC moves from back door system (guaranteed two games) to two groups of five, guaranteeing five games each
- Top team in each group into semi-finals, second and third in quarter-finals, bottom two in relegation playoffs
- Final likely to be played in September

Tyrone
- Retain straight knockout championship format, beginning on August 13 with the final five weeks later on September 20
- Begin with four league games in 10 days, played Friday/ Sunday over the first two weekends
- Leagues split into two 8s, with relegation via playoffs

Leinster
Carlow
- SHC first, groups of five beginning on July 31 weekend, including one midweek fixture and final on September 4
- SFC begins on September 11, abbreviated from last year's format
- Two groups of four in SFC, top two in each go to semi-finals. Final in October 9
- No replays until finals, and extra-time will be played first even there

Dublin
- Championship set to begin straight away on July 31 weekend
- Format likely to continue as in 2019 in terms of four groups of four round robin system
- Suggestion that only one team from each group will qualify, and that there will be no quarter-finals as a result

Kildare
- Various proposals with clubs, unlikely to be decided on until inter-county schedule is finalised
- SFC (currently four groups of four) and SHC (eight-team system with round-robin elements) are both likely to require format changes
- Most likely to lead in with club league games, and then conclude the leagues without county players

Kilkenny
- SHC changed format, moving to four groups of three rather than two groups of six
- Top three in each group move forward, bottom teams go into relegation playoffs
- Matches will finish on the day, with extra-time and penalties if required
- No dates yet announced, will take six weekends to play SHC

Laois
- Two options on the table
- Football championship in same format as previously
- One option is to begin on August 6 and play through to the final on October 10
- The other is to play up to the semi-final stage and then break until county teams are finished before resuming
- Hurling championship to be altered to reduce it from six rounds to five, beginning on July 31 and ending on September 27 weekend.

Longford
- Meeting next Thursday night to decide, one proposal currently on the table as below
- SFC numbers not yet decided, may be 10 teams or possibly 12
- Either way, group stage followed by knockout
- Final on October 4, replay if needed on October 11
- Clubs start with two league games and then finish league after championship, with no promotion or relegation

Louth
- SFC to run between August 16 and September 27, based on four groups of three, as was originally planned for 2020
- League to be played ‘concurrently’, with two groups of six, guaranteeing five games each

Meath
-
SFC will be four groups of four from August 1 until October 4, overlapping with SHC from August 8 until October 11
- SFC four groups of four, top team in each group progresses to semi-finals, bottom team into relegation playoffs

Offaly
- Decision due on Monday night, proposal for SHC to move to two groups of four teams
- Both codes likely to start early and finish in September
- Unlikely to be any leagues

Westmeath
- Two proposals to be discussed by management and CCC this evening, both reducing group sizes for championship
- Currently two groups of six in SFC, will be reduced to either 3x4 or 4x3
- Similar situation in SHC
- League likely to lead in with early game or two, then conclude after championship
- 11-week window to be utilised in full, SFC and SHC to run on alternate weeks

Wexford
- Unconfirmed reports that football and hurling championships will last just three weeks each
- Hurling beginning on August 2, final on August 23
- Football runs from August 30 to September 20
- Both four groups of three, with top team in each group going into semi-finals. No relegation

Wicklow
- Several proposals tabled, by CCC and clubs, which will be sent to clubs for discussion early next week
- No decision likely until near the end of June

Connacht
Galway
- Aiming to start championship on the first weekend and running through SHC and SFC over seven weeks
- Each club will be guaranteed three games

Leitrim
- Clubs sent questionnaires to complete, due to be returned to county board this weekend before discussions begin on a format

Mayo
- SFC to run as originally planned, four groups of four followed by knockout
- Football and hurling championships overlap on alternate weeks
- Football begins on August 9 weekend, with the final on September 20 weekend
- League games built in with plans to run them to a finish after championship

Roscommon
- TBA

Sligo
- Two options on the table for clubs to decide from on Monday night
- Option one sees the SFC played on round robin basis, two groups of five teams, with top two into semi-finals and bottom teams into relegation playoffs
- Warm-up competitions would give teams earlier games
- Second option is a straight knockout championship, with a league either side, but no relegation or promotion
- SFC final on October 4, SHC final on October 11

Munster
Cork
- Holding back a final decision until inter-county schedule is clarified
- Preference for group stage championships
- Looking at streaming all club championship games live

Clare
- Aiming to finish championships before the end of September
- New format required for club championships to reduce timeframe needed
- 2019 SHC involved 16 teams with back door format, while SFC had 13 teams in round-robin series, top two into quarter-finals

Kerry
- County football championship set to be played as a knockout, with final on the first weekend of October
- Club championships (a separate competition in Kerry) to be played in a group format

Limerick
- No dates yet, but plans to alternate football and hurling across the 11-week window
- Likely to need format changes from last year. 2019 championships both based on two groups of six, meaning 8 games for finalists

Tipperary
- No final decision to be made until inter-county schedules are confirmed
- County board reported to be leaning towards four-group round-robin championship in both football and hurling
- That would give each club three games, with only group winners qualifying directly for semi-finals
- Relegation playoffs involving bottom team in each group

Waterford
- Both hurling and football move to four groups of three teams, and will each be played off in five weeks
- Hurling championship from August 1 to 30. Group stage over the first week.
- Top two in each group go into quarter-finals, bottom team into relegation playoffs
- Football championship from September 5 to October 4
- All games to be decided on the day

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