GAA to confirm structure and duration of intercounty season on Thursday

Allianz Hurling League could return on May 9th ahead of football a week after

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The GAA will announce on Thursday the structure and duration of the upcoming intercounty season. It is due to get underway on Monday week, April 19th with the return of intercounty training with fixtures to follow in mid-May, on the 9th or 16th.

The public confirmation of these details will follow meetings of the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC), the GAA Management Committee and a meeting of county officers afterwards – all conducted remotely.

All-Ireland finals are likely to be in late August, giving a season of about 16 weeks.

The very late commencement of the season means that there will be no opportunity to replicate the success of last year’s split season, as clubs will be allowed to resume from some point in the summer and county championships can get up and running as counties are eliminated.

This will probably cover all but the small number of counties who make it to the concluding stages of the All-Ireland championships.

Structurally, it is likely to resemble last autumn and winter when the football season featured a couple of rounds of national league fixtures, followed by a knockout championship. The league section will be more extensive, as it has to be run in its entirety as opposed to 2020 when all but the final rounds had been played pre-lockdown in the spring.

Hurling may start a week early on the weekend of May 9th, in order to fit in a full league programme, as counties have expressed a preference for an extra match at the expense of a week’s pre-season training. Last year the top teams in both Division 1A and 1B, Limerick and Clare, were drawn to meet in the Munster quarter-final, which doubled as the league final.

It is believed that a similar approach will govern this year’s competition should the top counties in either division be drawn together in championship. If not an extra date for the league final will be found.

Football has already rationalised its structures with each of the four divisions broken into two smaller pools of four, arranged for geographical proximity. The top counties in each pool can play off for the divisional titles, with the finals a possibility in mid-June. The bottom counties in each pool could be relegated.

Thursday’s announcement will give clarity to counties by confirming the dates for all league fixtures, followed by the championship schedules.

A fixtures calendar is expected in a couple of weeks once the draws for the four provincial football and two hurling championships are made.

These details are expected on the Monday and Tuesday of the week after next and will be drawn live on RTÉ. It is expected that the Munster football and hurling championships will take place on Monday, April 19TH on RTÉ Radio 1’s Morning Ireland. The Leinster equivalent will take place the following day and draws for the Connacht and Ulster football championships are pencilled in for the Six One News on either day.

This year’s club season will run from midsummer through the autumn and winter. Unlike this year it is expected that provincial and club championships will take place.

Provincial councils may decide not to draw the championship fixtures until their intercounty semi-finalists are revealed, which would allow for those county champions to receive byes in order to facilitate the running of the competitions.

It is expected, however, that the club season will overhang 2022 with maybe even provincial finals taking place in January, followed by All-Ireland semi-finals and finals.

Finally on disciplinary matters, the Croke Park management sub-committee, appointed to investigate the incident last week of a number of Dublin footballers training collectively at the Inisfails club, is expected to report on Thursday.

Dublin GAA have already announced a 12-week suspension for manager Dessie Farrell, who wasn’t present at the session but who has accepted responsibility.

The belief is that the sub-committee won’t be recommending any dramatic variation on the penalty imposed by Dublin, although it is likely that the county will be stripped of home advantage for a league match in keeping with the punishments handed down to Cork and Down for similar breaches of rule last January.

Cork manager Ronan McCarthy’s 12-week suspension, however, is still in dispute and he is expected within the next week to have a hearing before the Disputes Resolution Authority (DRA). Down’s Paddy Tally accepted an eight-week ban.

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