The GAA have this morning published details of their plans for this year’s inter-county fixtures, following the expected return to play at county level in October. You’ll find full details published by the GAA here.
On the football side of things there are no major surprises in the fixture list, as the GAA’s proposals were well trailed in advance. There is, though, one piece of detail which we weren’t aware of and which is highly relevant. I’ll get to that in a bit.
The publication of the fixture details confirms that the final two rounds of the National League will be contested from mid-October and, following this, the Championship will then be run off using the old style straight knockout format, using the draws that were already made for the four provincial competitions.
All matches – up to and including the All-Ireland final – will be decided on the day. Extra-time and, Heaven forbid, a penalty shootout will be used where necessary to decide tied matches.
So, what does this mean for us? In short, if we’re to go on a run, it’ll mean a lot of games. If we make it to the Connacht final, we’ll be in action five weekends in a row. After such a long lay-off, the chances of picking up injuries – for all teams, not just us – has to be high.
Our opening match will be the long delayed National League Round 6 game against Galway on the weekend of 17th/18th October, with the Round 7 fixture against Tyrone on the following weekend. There are no League finals planned for this year, instead the top team in each division wins. That’s kinda like how a League competition should operate.
Then it’s straight into the one-slip-and-you’re-gone Championship.
Last October we were drawn against Leitrim in this year’s Connacht SFC quarter-final and that tie will be played, over a year after the draw was made, on either Saturday 31st October or Sunday 1st November.
Roscommon’s quarter-final with London is understandably still up in the air and the Exiles may or may not be able to take part in this year’s Championship, given the complexities with foreign travel and all that. New York are definitely out for 2020 – that fact is included in the published plans.
In any event, I think that – assuming we get past Leitrim – it’s the Rossies we’ll be facing in the semis. That game is fixed for the weekend of 7th/8th November, with the Connacht final the weekend after.
The two All-Ireland semi-finals are planned to take place on the weekend of 5th/6th December. But here’s the rub – it’s Leinster/Ulster on the Saturday and Connacht/Munster on the Sunday. So whoever claims the Nestor Cup this back-end will most likely have to beat both Kerry and Dublin if they’re to lift Sam just prior to Christmas. The final, by the way, is scheduled for Saturday, 19th December.
There’s other stuff of note in that GAA announcement, including the abandonment of provincial and All-Ireland club championships both this year and next. The announcement is worth a much closer look than I’ve been able to give it at the minute.