Playing the All-Ireland less than a week before Christmas Day has its advantages. With all the Yuletide running around I’ve had to do since Saturday, I haven’t had much time at all to brood on the result. I’m well over it all now.
I’ve only popped my head in here the odd time as well since Sunday, for the same reason. In a normal year, I’d be reaching for the shutters around now to close up shop on the blog for the festive season. But this is anything but a normal year.
Next year, by the looks of it, won’t be a whole load better, even if, from a Covid-19 perspective, the imminent start of the vaccine rollout gives us all hope about a return to something approaching normality at some undefined point in the future.
The impact of Covid on next year’s GAA calendar is already clear. Yesterday, the association unveiled its fixture plan for 2021 (overview here), featuring, as expected, a split season that will see the inter-county action played off first following by the club Championships.
As had been trailed in advance, the usual January fare – in our case, the FBD League – has been shelved for 2021 and the start of the National League has been pushed back to the end of February. With no pre-season U20 action this year either, this means that the first two months of the year – when normally there’s a veritable frenzy of matches – will be largely devoid of any action.
The shape of next year’s Leagues were also leaked some time ago and so yesterday’s announcement confirmed what was already largely known. We’re in Division Two North along with Meath (relegated along with us from Division One this year), Down (promoted this year from Division Three) and Westmeath.
On recent Championship form, we should have plenty to spare on all three of the teams in our group. As we all know, however, that’s not the way it works, with our League form tending to be patchy enough.
If we’re contemplating a quick return to the top tier next year then we’ll need to finish first or second in our group and then win the resultant semi-final to claim one of the two promotion spots. That means we’d need to win three out of four games, with the semi-final a must-win one.
I know we may have expected a more leisurely life in Division Two but, by the looks of it, there’s no real margin for error in our 2021 League schedule. We’d better bear that in mind as we start to plan for another year of inter-county action.