It may be borne of Covid and taking place three months later than we might have expected but the new Allianz Football League could be stronger for all of that.
A movable line across the country, according to each division, has been drawn in order to create Northern and Southern halves to each of the four divisions.
The competition will burst into life this weekend and run over five weeks to a conclusion on June 19th and 20th.
After five months of no football action, the short, sharp nature of the return will be more visceral with questions aplenty to be answered after the breakthroughs in last year’s Championships of Cavan and Tipperary.
This is the 29th season that Allianz has sponsored the Allianz Leagues, making it one of the longest sponsorships in Irish sporting history. In addition, Allianz has supported primary schools Gaelic Games since 1993 through their sponsorship of Allianz Cumann na mBunscol.
Sport for Business will be discussing this long-standing commitment with Rob McEvoy of Allianz later in the week.
Each county (except in Division 4 South where there are three teams) will play three group games, after which there will be semi-finals, finals (subject to certain conditions) and relegation play-offs. If teams who win semi-finals are due to play a Championship game on the following weekend, the final will not be played. Instead, joint-winners will be declared.
Every Game Important
The small groupings in each division will make every game very important in the race for semi-final places and the battle to avoid being dragged into a relegation play-off.
Dublin and Kerry will meet Galway and Roscommon in Division One South while the Northern Division will be a taster for the Ulster Championship pitching Tyrone, Donegal, Monaghan and Armagh against each other.
Ulster Champions Cavan are in Division Three, on the opposite side geographically to Tipperary, the first time that two provincial champions have been lurking in that longer grass.
Mayo and Cork will hope to emerge from North and South in Division Two, setting up attractive games all the way down the board.
“For nearly three decades we have witnessed the ever-growing profile and reputation of this competition as well as the public appetite for Gaelic Games,” said Allianz Ireland CEO Sean McGrath.
“We are excited to welcome extended coverage of the 2021 Allianz Leagues with partners, eirSport, TG4 and RTE all broadcasting live action this season. It makes for another enthralling campaign and I would like to extend my best wishes to the management, players and fans who are the heartbeat of this great competition.”
“The start of the Allianz Football League will be warmly welcomed by all GAA supporters as the 2021 campaign swings into action,” added GAA president Larry McCarthy.
“Incredibly this is Allianz’s 29th year supporting these competitions which have grown from strength to strength over the years. I wish all of our competing teams well in what will be an action-packed few weeks and I’d like to acknowledge the ongoing support of Allianz in helping us to bring these games to the widest audience possible.”
The first-round fixtures this coming weekend are as follows:
Division 1 South: Kerry v Galway, Tralee, 3.0;
Division 1 North: Tyrone v Donegal, Omagh, 5.0
Division 2 South: Cork v Kildare, Semple Stadium, 3.30
Division 2 North: Mayo v Down, Elverys MacHale Park, 2.0
Division 3 South: Limerick v Tipperary, LIT Gaelic Grounds, 5.0
Division 3 North: Longford v Derry, Glennon Brothers Pearse Park, 5.0; Fermanagh v Cavan, Brewster Park, 7.0
Division 4 South: Waterford v Carlow, Fraher Field, 7.0
Division 4 North: Louth v Antrim, Geraldines GFC, Dundalk, 3.0
Division 1 South: Roscommon v Dublin, Dr.Hyde Park, 1.45; Division 1 North: Monaghan v Armagh, Brewster Park, 3.0
Division 2 North: Meath v Westmeath, Pairc Tailteann, 3.45
Division 2 South: Clare v Laois, Ennis, 3.45
Division 3 South: Wicklow v Offaly, Aughrim, 2.0
Division 4 North: Sligo v Leitrim, Markievicz Park, 3.0
Allianz and the GAA are among more than 250+ members of the Sport for Business network of sporting and business organisations working together across a number of key areas.
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