GAA happy with less preparation for more matches

National Hurling League will mark start of intercounty season on weekend of May 8th

The GAA is happy to cut preparation time for hurling counties who have expressed a preference for more fixtures in the national league. As a result the league will mark the start of the intercounty season on the weekend of May 8th and 9th.

Feargal McGill, director of player, club and games administration, said on Thursday that there were no qualms about the hurling teams commencing competitive fixtures after three weeks of training despite some misgivings that the initially allocated four weeks might be insufficient.

“It was something suggested to us by some of the hurling counties – that they felt they’d be satisfied with three weeks so we said, well let’s test the water here and see if that’s the view of the other Division 1 and 2 counties and it turned out it was.

“I’m not going to talk to you about sports science if there are people in the backroom teams of all those counties who understand sports science a heck of a lot better than me and they were reasonably satisfied with the trade-off to get the extra game versus the lead-in time.”

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Permission

There is still no clarity on the return of club activity. The GAA calendar provides for county championships to start on the first weekend in September, 4th and 5th, but there is provision for each county to resume club activity as they exit the intercounty championship.

“That is a matter for each county,” according to McGill. “As soon as the Government relax, give us permission to allow clubs begin training we are not going to hold anyone up. Once the Government gives permission it is up to counties to draw up their own fixture programmes.”

There will be a full programme of club championship fixtures, which wasn’t possible last year. Although the later stages of the championships won’t be played until early in 2022, they will be completed.

Provincial club finals and the All-Ireland semi-finals will be played in January and the finals in February, junior and intermediate on 5th/6th and the senior deciders on 12th/13th.

Allowances have been made for counties who progress furthest in the All-Ireland championship by giving them byes in the provincial championships.

“It’s not ideal but nothing about this is ideal,” according to McGill. “The steps we’ve taken are to delay the start of the provincial club championships and to exclude teams from the early rounds of the provincial championships. So that’s as much as we can do.

Crowds returning

“To be fair, if you make the All-Ireland football final you’ll still have all of September, all of October and at least half of November, more actually – you should have three full weeks in November, which is 11/12 weeks that will be available. None of this is ideal but we tried to be fair to everyone and we measured it out that way.”

The GAA were non-committal on the subject of crowds returning.

“That’s a question for Government and the health authorities,” said McGill, “it’s not for us. We’ll take our lead from whatever we’re allowed to do, we’ll take our lead from. I couldn’t answer that question, I really don’t know.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times