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GPA call for open draw if 2020 football championship becomes straight knockout

The majority of inter-county feel it’s safe to return to play, though 17% of GPA members indicated they may not resume.

GPA CEO Paul Flynn.
GPA CEO Paul Flynn.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

THE GAELIC PLAYERS Association say their members support a 32-county open draw if the 2020 senior football championship is staged as a straight knock-out competition. 

The GPA surveyed their members on a number of points relating to the GAA’s return to play roadmap, the results of which were today revealed in a letter to members by CEO Paul Flynn. 

There was, says Flynn, “no clear consensus regarding competition structures for the 2020 season”, but a few different proposals earned broad support from players. 

Players want the final two rounds of the national football league to be completed, and followed by a championship in which every county is guaranteed at least two games.

If there isn’t space in the calendar to guarantee teams two games, players want to stage the 2020 championship without any provincial competitions and instead proceed with an open draw involving all counties. 

This, they say, is the “only available option” to “ensure fairness across the board.” 

In hurling, players want significant league games to be completed – some favour playing all remaining league games – followed by a championship in which teams have a minimum of two games. 

Players also want to be allowed to train with their county teams once they have exited their club championships. At the moment, the GAA have set 14 September as the date from which counties can resume training. 

Per their engagement with members, they say any inter-county training that takes place before 14 September must be covered by the GAA Injury Benefit Scheme. 

Players are also calling for a minimum four-week window between the end of club championships and their first inter-county game. 

Flynn wrote that while the majority of players feel it’s safe to return to games, 17% of players indicated they may not do so.

Flynn says the GPA will work with players over issues raised in this regard, and are calling for the understanding of county boards, managers and supporters to be extended to any player who does not wish to resume playing. 

Elsewhere, 76% of players support the completion of the 2020 season within the calendar year, while 72% believe it is “very important” to set out a defined off-season prior to the start of the 2021 season. 75% of players say the 2021 season should be delayed to ensure this off-season happens. 

The GPA submitted these views to the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee last Friday, and say the CCCC will take them into account when drafting a master fixture list over the next week. 

“The GAA have positioned the inter-county competitions at the latter end of the year to maximise attendances”, wrote Flynn. “They now need to respect the views of the inter-county players on these issues, and as the high performing unit of our sports, the inter-county game needs to be given the respect it deserves.

“There are compromises outlined above that we would not contemplate in a regular year and that we cannot guarantee every squad or individual’s preferred outcome.  However, our goal is to achieve the best possible result for as many of our members as possible, given the unprecedented circumstances in which we find ourselves.” 

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Gavin Cooney

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