There is always a horizon and while a resumption of sporting activity looks distant at the moment, we feel it is worth laying down some potential markers on how a resumed season in Gaelic Games might look.
This morning we add our thinking on a season where Inter County action is permitted to resume on the first weekend of July, the first weekend of August or the first weekend of September.
Each scenario will be different in terms of structure and will rely on players accepting the different elements in order to get Championships played off at the latest in the first weekend of October to enable a subsequent return to club action.
The encouraging news is that it is possible in each of the three scenarios, albeit in a radically different form each time.
We have first plotted out a season starting in July which encompasses each of Gaelic Football, Hurling, Camogie and Ladies Football each retaining a solus day for Finals at Croke Park though it does stretch into September for each.
We have scheduled games to take place over Friday nights, Saturday and Sunday to accommodate what will be strong demand from fans and also to accommodate broadcasters.
In this scenario, the structure of the season in each code will remain familiar with Provincial Championships and Round Robins retained and in Football and a retained back door as well.
It does mean the loss of the Quarterfinal Round Robin Round or the Super 8 and also the pushing back to next year of the second Tier Championship but there would still be a familiar enough feel to each of the Championships.
It would allow for a two-week break before all of the finals and most of the Semi-Finals.
On three of the seven weeks, there would be a crossover between Camogie and Ladies Football.
In the men’s side, that crossover is more intense but there could be a divide between playing most of one code on Saturday and the other on a Sunday, with perhaps a blend of games taking place on Friday nights.
GAA Director General Tom Ryan said in an interview last week on Sport for Business that it was important to maintain time in the schedule for Counties to play their own Club Championships and in none of the circumstances have we crashed too deep into that Autumn period.
There are of course caveats aplenty but we need a horizon and this is at least a way that we might begin to think about where it will be…
Things get obviously more condensed if we are pushed back to an August start but it will still be possible to maintain Provincial Championships in Football and the full Round Robin series in Hurling.
The biggest change would be switching the order of the All Ireland Football and Hurling Finals, and in playing the Ladies and Men’s Finals on the same weekend, and the Camogie and the Hurling the same.
The Ladies Football would go straight to semi Finals after five rounds of back to back matches in the All Ireland Series.
It may be possible to introduce a single Back door round in football but we have opted instead to go straight to a Quarterfinal stage that would feature the finalists of each of the Provincial Finals meeting across the provinces one week later.
This would still finish the Inter-County season before the end of September and give the finalists in each of the four codes a two-week break before their finals.
The Junior and Intermediate Championships in Camogie and Ladies Football would take place in parallel.
And then the (hopefully) worst-case scenario of being locked down until the middle of August and not getting to play games until the first weekend in September.
That would be beyond the scheduled dates of the All Ireland Hurling and Football Finals but these are extraordinary times.
The Provincial Championships have to give way to the undoubted excitement of an Open draw in each of the four sporting codes.
Imagine the draw for each taking place the previous Sunday night on the Sunday Game and we would go with the home advantage going to the first team out of the bowl unless they requested a move to the away venue.
It would require herculean work by the Committees to set fixtures in consultation with county bosses and broadcasters but sure we are in an era of special effort.
We would love for games to be back earlier than any of these scenarios but the hope is that even if that is nixed by the reality of the more important battle against COVID-19, these potential scenarios give us some sense that things will get back to something like normal in the fullness of time.
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