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Laois ready to quit NFL to focus on the completion of club championship

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A general view of MW Hire O’Moore Park in Portlaoise, Laois

A general view of MW Hire O’Moore Park in Portlaoise, Laois

SPORTSFILE

A general view of MW Hire O’Moore Park in Portlaoise, Laois

Laois are to seek clarification on the consequences of not fulfilling their remaining Allianz football league fixtures in October to allow them to complete their local club championship programmes.

One of the three counties to have stricter measures imposed over the weekend because of surging Covid-19 cases, GAA matches have been suspended for two weeks, a period of time that incorporates three weekends.

The loss of those three weekends will have a knock-on effect that has now left Laois GAA considering withdrawal from the football league to allow their championship programme to be completed ahead of the start of the inter-county championships on November 7/8.

"We're possibly looking at withdrawing from the league or at least see what consequences there would be, were we to do that. It would give us an extra two weekends," said Laois secretary Niall Handy.

Laois officials were due to meet last night but Handy anticipated that clarification would be sought from Croke Park on the matter. It follows a meeting between officials of the three counties affected and Croke Park officials on Monday.

They have remaining Division 2 league games against Westmeath and Fermanagh, both away from home.

Deferral

Because of the tight nature of the schedule and the requirement for all games in the last round of all four divisions to finish at the same time, there is little scope for deferral.

The Laois football final was fixed for Sunday, October 4 but with the first round yet to get under way, that time-frame is no longer possible.

The knock-on effect of further restrictions being placed on three midlands counties over the weekend to try to suppress rising Covid-19 cases could see Laois seek to withdraw from the remainder of the Allianz football league in October.

Laois are contemplating such action as a way of finding more time to complete club championships that will be delayed by the three weekends they are set to lose because of the increased restrictions that incorporate a pause on GAA games.

Counties can continue training but with Laois only scheduled to start their football championship last weekend, having only played one round of their hurling championship, they are already out of time.

The Laois hurling final is currently fixed for September 27, with the football final on October 4. A three-week delay puts the football final back to October 25, the same weekend as the county's last-round Division 2 league fixture away to Fermanagh.

Handy said the clubs in the county had already rejected pausing the club championships and completing them when their interest in the inter-county championships was over.

"Clubs didn't want that, their preference was to start and finish in the same take," he explained.

Competitive

Laois footballers have five league points from five games and are just two points off the top and three from the bottom in a competitive division.

Even with the staging of the inter-county championships later in the year in some doubt because of gathering public health concerns, the GAA would not want a county withdrawing from the league for a number of reasons, not least the points and scoring imbalance it would create.

Handy said the county's priority has to be the completion of their club championships.

"The league is not a primary competition. We'd be open to deferring it possibly, but our primary concern has to be our club championships."

He also ruled out midweek games and doubling with hurling and football on the same weekends.

Laois officials were preparing to meet last night and Handy said they would be seeking clarity from Croke Park on the consequences of not fulfilling their remaining league games away to Westmeath and Fermanagh.

Offaly's management committee will meet tonight to discuss any knock-on effects from the pause on their local programme.

Salvage

Offaly chairman Michael Duignan is still hopeful that they can "salvage" one of the three weekends they are in line to lose if cases in their county can be suppressed sufficiently.

"We have to keep an eye on the figures. While we're disappointed, at the same time we did have a number of cases and we have to wait and see," he said.