Your guide to the 2021 GAA calendar for Cork clubs and county teams

Inter-county return to training on January 15 is under review
Your guide to the 2021 GAA calendar for Cork clubs and county teams

Castlehaven's Roland Whelton is tackled by St Finbarr's Steven Sherlock and Ian Maguire during the Bon Secours Cork SFC semi-final Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

FOR now, GAA activity is on hold, with the country struggling to curb the latest spike in Covid-19 cases.

Aside from club walkways, pitches, ball alleys and gyms nationwide are off-limits for the month of January. While January 15 is the proposed return to inter-county elite training, that will be reviewed across the next two weeks.

When the all-clear is given, the Association has a solid programme in place for 2021, sticking with the split-season approach that worked well last season. 

The key difference though is inter-county action will come first this time, with the clubs only cranking into gear after July. That won't stop counties from running leagues across the first six months, but clearly, government restrictions will have to be factored in as well as the outstanding finals from 2020 which have yet to be played.

Realistically in Cork, with a chunk of junior hurling and football games still to be run off, along with those intermediate and senior deciders, any league will be truncated and more of a pre-season. At least with the round-robin championship in place again, all teams will be guaranteed three meaningful games each from July.

From U12 upwards, Rebel Óg plan to run competitions at every age, including a one-off U18 tier now that minor has dropped to U17. 

There will be leagues at U12, U14 and U16, with the possibility of U14 and U16 championships later in the year, again depending on the situation with Covid.

For the U13 and U15 grades, leagues, from late March, and championships, from the end of the summer, will be staged. U17 will be championship-only. 

Remember, only non-contact training has been permitted since last October and everything is currently paused. Inter-county minor is from March to May, so that'll have to be factored into the scheduling as well. 

There was talk of the Harty Cup and Corn Uí Mhuirí being slotted in for GAA players in secondary school, as well as the third-level Fitzgibbon and Sigerson tournaments, but in the current climate they will be written off.

The GAA have released details of their plan for 2021 and the primary takeaways are as follows:

— Senior inter-county teams won't return to training before January 15, though the GAA will review that date given the current surge in Covid cases. No challenge games can take place before February and the football league is down from February 27 to April 4.

The football league is now regionalised so Cork will be in Division 2 South with Clare, Laois and Kildare. There will be semi-finals and finals, for both relegation and promotion, between both sections in each grade. The finalists are promoted and the relegation semi-final losers drop down.

The hurling league will be the same as 2020, as there were two divisions for the elite counties already, with a straight final at the end. It goes from February 27 to April 11. 

— Minor hurlers and footballers and U20 footballers can't train before Friday, February 5. Their championships are set to throw-on on March 20 and conclude on May 23.

Kerry’s Cian McMahon, Oisín Maunsell, Caolán Ó Conaill and Aaron O'Shea with Shane Kingston of Cork. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie
Kerry’s Cian McMahon, Oisín Maunsell, Caolán Ó Conaill and Aaron O'Shea with Shane Kingston of Cork. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

It's April 2 for U20 hurling, as that won't start until May 22. Cork are of course into this season's U20 All-Ireland hurling final, where they'll take on the winners of the Leinster final between Dublin and Kilkenny, which isn't currently fixed.

The U20 football championship will be knockout, going from March 27 to May 2, which facilitates dual players with the hurling operating from May 22 to July 11. The final will be a curtain-raiser to the senior All-Ireland and it has been suggested hurlers involved with their county's senior squad shouldn't play U20.

— The Super 8s format is gone for the senior football championships, but there will be a backdoor system. Division 3 and Division 4 counties will enter the Tailteann Cup if they don't make their provincial finals. As champions last year, Tipperary and Cavan are guaranteed a slot in the Sam Maguire qualifiers.

Darragh Fitzgibbon runs at Pádraic Maher of Tipp. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Darragh Fitzgibbon runs at Pádraic Maher of Tipp. Picture: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The Munster hurling championship features Limerick, Waterford, Tipperary, Clare and Cork next summer, with Kilkenny, Galway, Wexford, Dublin, Laois and Antrim in Leinster. 

Aside from All-Ireland finals, there won't be replays for knockout games in 2021, with games subject to the finish on the day regulations and the possibility of penalty shootouts. 

— The club window is July 24 to October 24, which leaves room for provincial club championships through to November and then All-Ireland club finals in January. 

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