GAA to reveal revamped fixtures masterplan for remainder of 2021
THE GAA will today reveal its plans for the year ahead, with a provincial, straight knockout All-Ireland Football Championship expected once more.
Less than four months after outlining the original fixtures masterplan for 2021, Croke Park’s director of games administration Fergal McGill will present an updated version after an escalation in the public health situation led to the start of the season being delayed.
Counties were originally scheduled to resume training on January 15 with a view to commencing the National League on the final weekend in February.
However, a surge in Covid-19 cases saw those plans stalled, and it was only last week that a date of April 19 was finally given for collective training to get under way.
With a minimum four week pre-season period earmarked, that means competitive action may not resume until May 15/16 – although there has been some suggestions Divisions One and Two of the National Hurling League could start a week earlier than its football equivalent.
The six senior inter-county provincial draws are expected to be made in the coming weeks, once counties have returned to collective training.
Some of the big questions that should be answered today surround the structure of the Championship, and whether the GAA will proceed with a truncated, regionalised National League as planned, including League finals.
As a result of time constraints, another knockout football Championship is anticipated in order to keep the window of inter-county activity as tight as possible, allowing for the club season to run from September until December.
While club training can begin in the north on Monday in pods of 15 or fewer, in its latest newsletter the GAA has suggested that adult club training could resume in the south next month, urging members to engage with its 'Be Ready to Play' programme and prepare a structured plan for return in the coming weeks.
In its newsletter, the Association also reminded members to hold firm as the return to play nears. One day after a similar call was made last week, a group of Dublin footballers were photographed training, with All-Ireland winning manager Dessie Farrell subsequently suspended for 12 weeks by the Dublin County Board.
"Breaches at club and county level in recent weeks have brought the spotlight on our association and threaten to undermine the significant work done by the majority of members in the face of the pandemic," the newsletter read.