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Club players unveil two scenarios on how GAA split season could work in 2021

The document includes new formats for the leagues and championships in hurling and football.

Séamus Callanan with the Liam MacCarthy cup.
Séamus Callanan with the Liam MacCarthy cup.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Updated Sep 16th 2020, 3:07 PM

THE CLUB PLAYERS Association have released a detailed brief explaining how a split season might operate in the GAA calendar, which they say can realistically come into play in time for the 2021 season. 

The CPA have forwarded two split season scenarios to the GAA’s Fixtures Task Force.  

Both drafts involve a designated period for the month of January for third-level competitions, with the inter-county season running from February to the middle of July. 

Club championships would then begin, with provincial club competitions starting at the end of October and the All-Ireland club finals on the weekend of 11/12 December. A closed season would come into play for the last two weeks of the year.

Inter-county pre-season competitions would be scrapped in both codes.

The timelines give enough time for dual counties to complete their club championships. All club championships are to have a maximum of 16 teams, with three games guaranteed for each side. Club leagues would run from April to July without county players

Also included are plans for the U20 hurling and football inter-county competitions.  They would be played at same time of the leagues with U20 players ineligible to play senior during these competitions.

“If we can plan to play an All Ireland final in December when circumstances dictate, then anything is possible with advance planning,” said chairman Micheál Briody.

“The COVID-19 season has shown us that the GAA is capable of radical change and fast moving decisive response when it is needed. Credit to management, they pulled the 2020 season out of the fire, so far so good as we move towards the inter-county season.

“Covid-19 has also provided clear evidence if any was needed of the appetite and enthusiasm for the club game up and down the country. In the past – including in the Task Force report – concerns were raised that a shorter inter-county season would result in less media coverage for our games.

“Those fears have thankfully been proven unfounded. If anything the profile, thanks to clubs, has been better than ever.”

Option 1 

Football 

League
● National League and pre-season tournaments replaced by Provincial League Groups
● Provinces adjusted so there are two groups of 6 in Leinster and Ulster, one in Munster and Connacht (involves Longford moving to Ulster, New York not involved)
● Provincial Leagues run-off on round-robin basis (one game vs each team), with top two in each province meeting in provincial final (top team in group 1 and 2 make final in Leinster and Ulster)
● Final positions determine All-Ireland series seeding

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New Provincial structures

Championship
● Champions League-style format as 8 provincial finalists are top seeds for 8 groups of 4, with open draw based on Provincial League standings
● Groups run-off on round-robin basis (one game vs each team)
● Top 2 in each group advance to last 16 of Sam Maguire Cup, bottom 2 advance to last 16 of Tailteann Cup (straight knock-out)

Hurling

League and championship
● Division 1 league (with 1A and 1B groups) retained and Liam MacCarthy Cup increased to 12 teams – 6 in Munster and Leinster
● Division 1 league runs off as normal with top side in 1A and 1B meeting in final (no quarter-finals or semi-finals)
● Round-robin format in championship (one game vs each team)
● Top 2 in each province into provincial final (provincial winners enter All-Ireland semi-final, losing finalists into quarter-final)
● 3rd and 4th placed teams play each other (cross over from each group) and winners advance to quarter-finals
● 5th placed teams safe from relegation, 6th placed teams face-off in relegation final with losers dropping to Joe McDonagh

Munster

● Involves one team being added to Munster. If Kerry are not in Division 1, a team from outside Munster will be added to the province. Geographical location doesn’t dictate which province the promoted team joins. Joe McDonagh winners replace losers of MacCarthy Cup relegation final in whichever province
● Eight-team Joe McDonagh, Christy Ring and Nicky Rackard Cups replace Division 2, 3 and 4 with league merging into knock-out championships 

Option 2 

Football 

League
● Provincial Football League replaces existing league with 4 conferences of 8 (involves movement of several counties) giving each team 7 games
● Top 2 in each conference play for provincial title
● Top 4 in each province quality for Sam Maguire Cup, bottom 4 into Tier 2
● Tier 2 winner automatically qualifies for Sam Maguire the following year (4th team in their province would then go into Tier 2) 

Ireland North

Championship

● 16 teams go into 4 groups of 4 for Tier 1 and Tier 2
● Provincial finalists are seeded and can’t be in same Tier 1 group, more than 2 teams from same province allowed in each Tier 2 group
● 3 rounds in each group, top 2 qualify for All-Ireland quarter-finals

Hurling

League and championship
● Championship format the same as Option 1
● Division 1 league goes to 4 groups of 3 teams (drawn each year)
● Top 2 teams in each group qualify for quarter-finals

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Kevin O'Brien

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