Meath and Louth deal with brand-new format
The GAA’s Central Council has approved a split season for 2021 that will see all inter-county fixtures take location in the early part of the year, with the rest reserve for club activities.
And while there will likely be enormous monetary implications due to restricted crowds and even none enabled to participate in matches, the GAA decided this is the very best course of action in what will probably be another difficult year for the association and its members.
The association will be enthusiastic of completing the 2020 small football project as quickly as possible, though provincial champions have still to be completed in both Leinster and Ulster, with Meath through to face Offaly in the Leinster decider.
The inter-county season will commence on the last week of February with the start of the NFL and complete with the 2021 All-Ireland football last in July, with Sunday 18th the most likely date.
The NFL will have a brand-new format, with divisions split in two on a regional basis. Meath, running in Department 2 following their transfer from the leading tier, are in a group along with Mayo, Down and Westmeath. The other side of the group makes up of Cork, Kildare, Clare and Laois. In Division 4 Louth have actually been combined with Leitrim, Antrim and Sligo, with the other side of their grade inhabited by Carlow, Wexford, Waterford and London (if they get involved).
Each county will have a minimum of 4 matches, three games in their group and after that a semi-final for either promotion or transfer. The leading 2 groups in each group fulfill in semi-finals, with winners gaining promo and a place in the decider. The bottom 2 in each group play each other to choose the 2 counties to be relegated. Finals in the NFL take location on the opening weekend of April.
Football champions, which start on the third weekend of April, will be worked on a provincial knock-out/qualifier basis, meaning no Super-8s. The brand-new Tailteann Cup football competitors will be for counties in Division 3 and 4 who do not reach their provincial finals. The semi-finals are scheduled for the weekend of June sixth in Croke Park, while the last will be a curtain-raiser to an All-Ireland hurling semi-final on June 27th.
Senior inter-county training will only be allowed after January 15th and obstacle matches only after February 1st. Due to Covid-19 and its involved threats, no training or video games involving an overnight stay are allowed during pre-season and there will be no O’Byrne Cup (Leinster) or pre-season competitors in the other provinces.