THE GAA inter-county season is on ice due to the Coronavirus, with the league unlikely to be concluded and a return to the knockout championship format mooted.
GAA Director of Player, Club and Games Administration Feargal McGill explained that the Association are still hoping to play the All-Ireland finals this August, provided competition begins by mid-June at the latest.
“We'd probably have to look at straight knock-out provincial championships in both football and hurling, but, potentially with a back-door as well,” McGill told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.
Such a scenario would see the round-robin series in Munster and Leinster hurling gone for 2020, along with the Super 8s quarter-final format in football. That would mean reverting to the systems last used in 2017, as opposed to the old school version with no qualifiers.
“We’d like to give teams a fortnight breathing space it at all possible before asking them to come back into competitive action,” said McGill.
The football championships this summer was supposed to see a split, with the introduction of the Tailteann Cup. In order to avoid the prospect of playing in Tier 2 if they lost their Munster semi-final to Kerry, Cork needed to get promoted to Division 2.
They only needed a draw from one of the last two league games with Louth and Longford to do so, but could now have to stay in Division 3 in 2021.
“We haven’t heard anything yet," Cork veteran Paul Kerrigan told the Irish Examiner.
"We’re doing our programmes at the moment but we were literally one weekend, one point, away from sealing qualification. I was hoping we would get that weekend [the last home game against Louth] out of the way but what can you do?
“It’s not like the Premier League because so much matters in every division and they’re going to have to think about it.”
Kerrigan understands the appeal of a cut-throat championship, but conceded players want more games.
“In one way, some people would love to see a knockout Championship but as a player you wouldn’t because you want as many games as possible.”
The Rebels were in experimental mode during the league, blooding newcomers like Brian Hartnett, Paul Ring and Cathail O'Mahony from the All-Ireland winning U20s, while integrating Ciarán Sheehan back into the mix on his return from Australia.
“We used 30-odd players and if there is still a Championship the work won’t be undone, like. We were in a good place and winning games in a row, which we hadn’t done in a while. We were starting to turn the corner as a group and the work ethic was very good.”
Now the panel have to try and stay sharp in training isolation.
“You’re doing your runs and everybody is accountable. You have to put in what you’re doing. The running joke is no matter how much we’re running right now the first game we go back all of us are going to be bolloxed. It’s just not the same.
“The interaction would be one of the main things I miss. Our WhatsApp group has been flat out now for the bones of two weeks, it’s flat out. It’s going to be like this for a while.”