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What kind of All-Ireland football can we see in 2020?
Yesterday GAA ruled out any inter-county games before October. If Irish bonds are awarded in 2020, there is a relatively short window for that. Last year, the football championship started in New York, May 5th. Twenty weeks later, Dublin took Sam Maguire after a repeated victory over Kerry. Sports News Ireland has submitted a proposal for an Irish football championship for 2020.
The time scale would present fewer problems in the Hurling championship due to only 12 teams competing in the Liam McCarthy Cup last year.
How will GAA find a winner for this year's Sam Maguire?
A knockout in the Championship would be the fastest way. There is an opportunity to hold a direct knockout competition for five weekends. Assuming that there will be no climax in national football leagues and GAA's focus on the Irish Championship, there will be 12 weekends available before the end of the year.
Except postponements and repetitions of the five rounds of games can be spaced out over ten weekends. GAA President John Horan said last week on RTÉ One radio that the 2020 Championship could be postponed until 2021. However, this would have an indirect effect on upcoming league and championship campaigns.
The start of a competition in October would come with many potential pitfalls. If there were fifteen days between the rounds, the business end of the competition would reach December. Perhaps the All-Ireland final could take place on St. Patrick's Day in 2021? Until two years ago, the AIB Club finals on Paddy's Day were a highlight of the GAA calendar.
This year's Allianz leagues are unlikely to be completed. However, instead of completely ignoring the five rounds of games that have already been completed, GAA has the opportunity to reward municipalities that have performed well in their respective divisions. The current league positions of each municipality can be used as seeds for the 2020 championship (see table 1-A).
How would that work?
The last football game between counties to be played was on Saturday, March 7, when Armagh had a 3-14 v 0-10 Win Fermanagh in a rescheduled Allianz League Two game at Brewster Park. This left each of the 32 municipalities in all four divisions with 5 games played.
Sports News Ireland All-Ireland 2020 Football Championship Proposal
Galway, which is at the top of Division 1, would be the 1st seed, while London, which is at the end of Division 4, would be the 32nd seed. Here we come to our first hurdle – at this stage, with international travel looking like a distant memory, would London be in a position to fulfill that commitment? If not, there is an opportunity for Kilkenny to put a team on Sam Maguire for the first time since 1982.
Games in round 1, where Division 1 teams play Division 4 teams, would see the home advantage being attributed to lower league teams. The potentially more balanced games between Division 2 and Division 3 can be played in neutral locations.
Sowing would work in a mirrored fashion. 1st would play 32nd, 2nd and 31st, 3rd and 30th and so on. The draw would also be divided into two sides A and B. This would allow equipment planners to reduce possible pairs to plan locations in advance. Odd number games would form side one of the draw (A). While the equipment with even numbers would be on the opposite side (B).
Weekend 1 of the championship would see 16 matches over two days. 8 side A games of the draw on Saturday and 8 side B on Sunday (see diagram 1-B). On the second weekend, the eight winners would face each other on both days. In the third weekend, we would be in the quarterfinals phase (see table 1-c). By weekend four, the teams would be reduced to the last four. The semi-finals would take place in Croke Park on consecutive days. In the fifth week, we would have only two municipalities competing for the Sam Maguire Cup.
Why might this not work?
One of the most obvious obstacles to this suggested format would be the lack of provincial championships. Would the four provincial councils agree to cancel their main event, even as a single event?
However, the proposed format would bring some interesting encounters. The first four draws on either side of the tie would give the four-sided division a taste of the big moment against the opposition of the first division.
The prospect of the Dubs traveling to face Sligo at Markievicz Park would certainly attract a large number of the Army Hill 16 over the weekend. It would also be a big boost for the local economy. Although the eight ties between division two and division three are fiercely competitive encounters.