Leitrim Aidan Flynn pictured with Mayo's Oisin Mullin in the Connacht SFC - next year's Championship will take place in April Picture: Wilie Donnellan
Leitrim teams will not be in action until the end of February under the new plan for the 2021 inter-county season unveiled on Monday afternoon by the GAA with the entire second half of the year devoted to club action only.
Under the new plan, County games will take place in the first part of the season with an uninterrupted main Club Championship Window from the weekend of July 24/25, to October 23/24, with the Provincial club competitions, up to All-Ireland Semi-Finals, taking place from October 16/17, on.
Terry Hyland's Leitrim team will also face a much shortened League campaign with all four Divisions in the Allianz Football League being divided into two, with Leitrim down to face Antrim, Louth and neighbours Sligo in their half of Division 4. The top two teams in each section will qualify for the League semi-finals with the bottom two going into a Shield competition to provide extra games.
For the Championship, Division 3 & 4 teams at the end of the 2021 League who do not reach their provincial finals will compete in the Tailteann Cup on a knockout basis with a possible place for New York in the competition as they are ruled out of the Connacht SFC.
For Leitrim hurlers, there will be no change to the amount of games they receive in Division 3B but Warwickshire's participation in the Nicky Rackard Cup could come into doubt, as could London in the Connacht Senior Football Championship, depending on what restrictions are in place regarding Covid-19.
Speaking to GAA.ie, GAA Director of Player, Club, and Games Administration and Bornacoola GAA Clubman Feargal McGill has explained why this approach has been adopted: "I think if you took a short term view you would say there is no guarantee we will be able to play club games in the first quarter of the year.
“We aren't allowed do them now. Yes that is if we look at the short term, but if we look at the longer time, if the GAA are going to bring in a split season and it will be on the agenda for Congress in February, I think the right decision is still to put the county game first.
“A couple of reasons for that, if you ran with the club game first you could end up playing county finals at the end of April, the early part of May because then you have to run the provincial and All Ireland club championships.
“That would be very early for the flagship team in every club to be finished their activity, we don't think that would have been a good approach. There would be less appetite for teams to play in leagues and non championship competitions once they are eliminated from the county championships.
“The third obvious thing is that if you ran with club first towards the end of the club season with the inter-county return to training would be eating into the time available for clubs. For all those reasons we think county first is a no brainer to be quite honest.”
The main points of the new plan are as follows:
-Providing a meaningful closed season/down time:
-No return to collective Senior inter county training before January 15.
-Senior inter county challenge games allowed from start of February – due to covid and its associated risks, no training or games that will involve an overnight stay are permitted during pre-season.
-No return to collective inter county minor training (H & F) or U20 Football before Friday February 6; challenge games in these grades will be permitted from Friday, February 26.
-No return to collective inter county U20 Hurling training before Friday, April 2. Challenge games will be permitted from April 23.
-No Provincial “pre-season” competitions
Allianz Football League
- Run from Feb 27/28 to League finals weekend on April 3/4
- Pick up” weekend included – provision to allow competition to run over by one week if necessary
- Divisions will be split into North and South
- 4 teams in each group – based on geography
- 3 Round Robin games per team
- Top two in each Divisional group to league semis, followed by league final
- Bottom two in each Divisional group to Relegation semis – losers (2) relegated
- Bottom teams in Division 4 to Shield semis and final.
- Provision made to run either with London or without depending on restrictions.
Allianz Hurling League
- Run from Feb 27/28 to league finals weekend on April 10/11
- “Pick up” weekend included – provision to allow competition to run over by one week if necessary, also allowed for
- Run on same basis as in a normal year except no League Quarter or Semi Finals – Division 1 league final will be Div 1A winners v Div 1A winners; top two teams in all other groups play the relevant league final.
- Provision made to run either with British based teams (London, Warwickshire and Lancashire) or without depending on restrictions
- If without…… London and Warwickshire will be exempt from relegation (i.e. they will start 2022 in Divisions 2b and 3a respectively)
- Decision will be formally taken on the participation of British teams in January and depending on Restrictions in place.
2021 Football Championships
- Provincial knock-out Championships with back-door qualifier system and Tailteann Cup
- No Round Robin quarter finals
- Round 1 of Qualifiers (if required) to be limited to teams that did not make their provincial semi-finals
- London participation to be a matter for Connacht Council based on restrictions (date is 17/18 April if they are to be involved)
2021 Tailteann Cup
- For teams in Div 3 and 4 of the football league at the end of the 2021 league season (i.e. AFTER promotion/Relegation process), that DO NOT reach their respective Provincial Finals
- Preliminary Round(s) to be organised if more than 16 eligible teams
- If NY are allowed participate, they will be drawn against an eligible team defeated in either Round 1 or a Quarter final of the Provincial Championships – game date May 16 (this may be a preliminary Qualifier if more than 16 teams eligible).
- Recommended that Provincial Champions from the previous year – regardless of whether they are Division 3 or 4 Counties or not – are automatically included in Sam Maguire Qualifiers even if they do not qualify for their provincial final in 2021
- Recommended if NY are involved, their game(s) will be in Ireland.
- Rounds – Prelim Round (if required), Round 1, Quarter Finals, Semi Finals and Final
- Semi Finals on Sunday June 6th – Croke Park double header; will be only significant games in the calendar on that date
- Final to be a curtain raiser to the All Ireland Hurling Semi Final on June 26/27
2021 Liam MacCarthy Cup
-Provincial knock-out Championships with back-door qualifier system (as in 2020) but with introduction of relegation to Mc Donagh Cup
-Munster – Limerick, Waterford, Tipperary, Clare, Cork
-Leinster – Kilkenny, Galway, Wexford, Dublin, Laois, Antrim
-There will be 11 teams in Liam Mac Carthy in 2021 - there will be a preliminary round in the qualifiers between the two defeated Quarter final teams.
-Winners progress to Qualifiers Rd 1 – Losers to Mc Donagh Cup 2022
2021 McDonagh Cup and 2021 Ring, Rackard and Meagher Cups
- Recommending McDonagh Cup winners are promoted in 2021 but do not have a back door into Liam Mac Carthy
- Mc Donagh Cup and LSHC Final to be on Saturday, 22nd May to ensure Live TV coverage of Mc Donagh Cup final.
- McDonagh Cup: Kerry, Westmeath, Meath, Carlow, Kildare, Down
- Ring Cup: Roscommon, Sligo, Wicklow, Derry, Offaly, London
- Rackard Cup: Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim, Armagh, Tyrone, Warwickshire
- Meagher Cup: Monaghan, Longford, Louth, Cavan, Fermanagh, Lancashire
All of the above played on the following basis:
-Semi finals – Winner Group A v Runner Up Group B, and Winner Group B v Runner Up Group A
-Final (Home venue to Group winners)
-Draws to be made when it is clear if British based teams are participating or not.
-IF British teams ARE NOT PARTICIPATING in Ring, Rackard & Meagher – alternative competition structures will be put in place.
-Provincial Knock-out competition
-No U20 league
-Window for Championship 27/28 March to Final on May 1/2 (6 weekends)
-Provincial Knock-out competition
-No All Ireland Semi-Finals – All Ireland final is Leinster Winners v Munster Winners
-Window for Championship May 22/23 (with break for Leaving Cert) to AI Final on July 10/11.
-All Ireland final as curtain raiser to All Ireland Senior Hurling Championship Final
-U20 B Hurling similar window (final on July 3)
Minor Hurling and Football
-Window – March 20/21 to May 22/23.
-De-coupled from Senior All Ireland Championships
-Development C.C.C.C to bring forward proposals on how these should be structured.
-Main All Ireland Finals to ideally be in Croke Park if possible
-All knock out games in the above Championship competitions, will be subject to finish on the day regulations – EXCEPTION: All Ireland Senior Football and Hurling Finals (Tier 1), which will have Extra time in the original fixture, and will be finish on the day in the event of a replay only.
2021 Club Window Provisions
-Club competitions – largely without County players – can take place in the Spring and early summer months covid regulations permitting.
-Uninterrupted main Club Championship Window from July 24/25 to October 23/24
-Provincial Club Championship window primarily from October 16/17 to November 27/28
-Suggested Provincial Draws are not made until All Ireland Quarter final participants in the senior inter county championships are known. County champions from the teams involved to NOT be involved in Round 1/Quarter finals in Provincial club championships where possible.
-All Ireland Club Championship Semi-finals in December
-2021 All Ireland Club Finals to take place in January 2022