What type of Football All-Ireland might we see in 2020?
Yesterday the GAA ruled out any inter-county games before October. If All-Ireland titles are to be awarded in 2020, there is a relatively short window to do so. Last year Football championship started in New York on the 5th of May. It was twenty weeks later when Dublin lifted Sam Maguire after a replay victory over Kerry. Sports News Ireland have come up with a Proposed All-Ireland Football Championship for 2020.
The timescale would present less of a problem in Hurling championship due to only 12 teams competing in the Liam McCarthy cup last year.
How will the GAA find a winner for this year’s Sam Maguire?
An open-draw knockout Championship structure would be the quickest route. There is an opportunity to run a straight knockout competition over five weekends. Assuming that there will be no climax to the National Football leagues and the GAA focus on the All-Ireland Championship there would be 12 weekends available before the end of the year.
Barring postponements and replays the five rounds of games could then be spaced over ten weekends. GAA President, John Horan stated last week on RTÉ radio One, that the 2020 Championship may be pushed back into 2021. However, this would have a knock-on effect on next years league and championship campaigns.
Starting a competition in October would come with plenty of potential pitfalls. If there was a fortnight between rounds, then the business end of the competition would be well into December. Perhaps the All-Ireland final could take place on St.Patrick’s day 2021? Until two years ago the AIB Club finals on Paddy’s day was one of the highlights of the GAA calendar.
This year’s Allianz leagues are highly unlikely to be completed. However, rather than completely ignore the five rounds of fixtures that were already fulfilled, the GAA has an opportunity to reward those counties who performed well in their respective divisions. The current league positions of each county could be used as seedings for the 2020 championship (see table 1-A).
How would this work?
The last inter-county football game to be played was on Saturday, March 7th when Armagh enjoyed a 3-14 v 0-10 win over Fermanagh in a rescheduled Allianz league two game at Brewster Park. This left each of the 32 counties across all four divisions with 5 games played.
Sports News Ireland Proposed All-Ireland Football Championship 2020
Galway, who sit top of division 1 would be 1st seed, while London who sit bottom of Division 4 would be the 32nd seed. Here we hit our first snag – at this stage with international travel looking like a distant memory, would London be in a position to fulfil this fixture? If not there is an opportunity for Kilkenny to field a team in the Sam Maguire for the first since 1982.
Fixtures in round 1 where Division 1 sides play Division 4 sides would see home advantage being awarded to the lower league sides. The potentially more balanced fixtures between Division 2 versus Division 3 sides could be played at neutral venues.
The seeding would work in a mirrored fashion. 1st would play 32nd, 2nd v 31st, 3rd v 30th and so on. The draw would also be divided into two sides A & B. This would allow the fixture planners to narrow down the possible pairings in order to plan venues in advance. The odd number fixtures would then form side one of the draw (A). While the even-numbered fixtures would be on the opposite side (B).
Weekend 1 of the championship would see 16 matches over the two days. 8 games from side A of the draw on Saturday and the 8 from side B on Sunday (see diagram 1-B). Weekend two would see the eight winners face off over the two days. By the third weekend, we would be at the quarter-final stage (see table 1-c). By weekend four the teams would be whittled down to the last four. The semi-finals would take place at Croke Park on consecutive days. By week 5 we would be left with just two counties competing for the Sam Maguire Cup.
Why might this not work?
One of the most obvious stumbling blocks to this suggested format would be the lack of Provincial Championships. Would the four provincial councils agree to their showpiece event being cancelled even as a one-off event?
However, the proposed format would throw up some interesting encounters. The first four ties on each side of the draw would give division four sides a taste of the big time against top tier opposition.
The prospect of the Dubs travelling to face Sligo in Markievicz Park would surely attract large numbers of the Hill 16 army for the weekend. It would also serve as a huge boost to the local economy. While the eight ties between division two and division three sides should be fiercely competitive encounters.