GAA warn against jumping the gun as intercounty return date set for April 19th

Fixture calendar and competition structures to be announced next week

GAA president Larry McCarthy. Photograph: Tom O’Hanlon/Inpho

The GAA will announce details of the coming season next week after the Easter holiday but a national league programme will be included and the intercounty season is likely to run for three months from mid-May.

This emerged on Tuesday after the Government announcement that intercounty training could go ahead on April 19th. This probably pushed the return out a little later than expected but there was a welcome for the news and also for confirmation that underage training in groups of 15 can begin non-contact training on April 26th, although again this is later than hoped-for.

In a communique to clubs and counties the association warned that any pre-empting of the new dates for a return to activity could jeopardise the whole resumption.

President Larry McCarthy and director-general Tom Ryan warned that anyone doing so would also be dealt with under their own rules.


“These are hugely welcome developments and allow us finally to begin planning on-field activity for the remainder of 2021.

“However, it should also be noted that these dates are conditional and will very much depend on what happens in terms of the overall Covid-19 picture in the coming weeks.

“For that reason, it is more important than ever that no collective training sessions are held between now and the Government indicated return dates. Breaches in this context will not only be dealt with under our own rules but would likely put the broader plan to return to activity in serious jeopardy.”

This governs the situation in Northern Ireland where clubs are to be allowed to return on April 12th because of the improving public health environment. But although counties are also allowed by law to train, they remain bound by Croke Park’s directive, which is to ensure that no counties get an early start on others.

Questioned on the decision to permit intercounty to resume, Taoiseach Micheál Martin explained at Tuesday evening’s press conference.

“Could I first of all say that last year the GAA was considered an elite sport in the context of Level 5 and that’s what facilitated the hosting of the All-Ireland championships and camogie championships and ladies football. And they have fallen out of that for the first three months of this year, so in order to have a season it’s important that they will be able to commence league competition in May.

“The challenges last year were more focused on clubs if we’re honest and the data will show that in terms of the club championships. There was a marked difference between the impact of the intercounty, as opposed to the club championship.

“My understanding is that the GAA are looking at the intercounty situation first and the national league to be followed by the championship and then to be followed by the clubs.”

In the communique issued by Croke Park it was stated that further details would be announced next week.

“We hope to be in a position to confirm the fixture calendar and competition structures for intercounty by the end of next week. We also hope to have finalised updated versions of our ‘Return to Play’ documents for both intercounty and club activity ahead of the stated dates for resumption North and South of the border.”

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times