We’re in that strange interregnum between Christmas and the New Year – remind me again: what day is today? – but once 2022 gets underway then so too does the resumption of inter-county action.
Connacht GAA decided some weeks ago that all of the matches in the 2022 FBD League would take place at the Air Dome in the Centre of Excellence. That decision was taken prior to the latest surge in Covid infection numbers but, once Omicron hit, the resultant restrictions on indoor gatherings have meant that attendances at the FBD matches in the Dome are capped at 300.
This, in effect, means that next month’s FBD action will now take place behind closed doors. Moreover, because the games are being played in the Dome – the first inter-county matches ever to be contested at an indoor venue – the 8pm closing time restriction also applies. Arising from this, all the FBD matches will now have the earlier throw-in time of 6pm or, if you prefer, tea-time.
Given the widespread prevalence of Omicron within the community at the present time, supporters’ appetite for attending live sporting events has likely been dimmed. As a result, playing off the FBD matches in the Dome with only a small number of people in attendance now seems like a sensible move.
This is all the more so because all of the FBD ties will be streamed live by Connacht GAA. They’re being made available on a pay-per-view basis, with match passes for each game priced at €10, which is a bit less than you could expect to pay at the gate if you were attending the game in person. Details on match passes are here.
The action gets underway next Monday evening with Andy Moran in his bainisteoir bib for the first time as his Leitrim side take on Sligo. The Yeats County are, of course, still being managed by ex-Mayo coach Tony McEntee so that gives a nice personal edge to proceedings for the two managers.
We join the fray under the Dome on Friday evening (7th January), when we play Galway in the first semi-final of the competition. Roscommon play the winners of the Leitrim/Sligo clash on the Saturday evening and the final will then be contested on Friday 14th January.
The joke about the FBD no longer being a league competition is a well-worn one at this stage. The 2022 variant will take it further from its roots, with a ‘golden score’ rule to be used for the first time ever to ensure that all matches finish on the night and that everyone is packed off home from the Dome in advance of the 8pm deadline.
Penalty kicks have been used as tie-breakers in the FBD in the past – and we’ve both won and lost shootouts in the pre-season competition – but a ‘golden score’ would, like the equivalent tie-break rule in soccer some years ago, end the contest once one of the teams bags a score in extra-time. Christy O’Connor has an interesting piece in today’s Irish Examiner (here) on GAA shootouts.
Stuck as we currently are in the midst of yet another Covid wave, it’s good to have something different to focus on. It’s even better that this something is the return of inter-county football. Roll on 2022. Roll on the FBD under the Dome.