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Season not a write-0ff

Remaining league games may act as warm-ups

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FAMOUS DAY: Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin
celebrates with the Sam Maguire cup following last year’s All-Ireland SFC final win over Kerry at Croke Park. Pics: Sportsfile

FAMOUS DAY: Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin celebrates with the Sam Maguire cup following last year’s All-Ireland SFC final win over Kerry at Croke Park. Pics: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

FAMOUS DAY: Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin celebrates with the Sam Maguire cup following last year’s All-Ireland SFC final win over Kerry at Croke Park. Pics: Sportsfile

The GAA are reluctant to abandon the 2020 Allianz leagues until such time as a cancellation is unavoidable.

The latest range of more restrictive measures on movement of citizens announced by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday has not forced Croke Park into any immediate action over the fate of the leagues.

A statement is expected from Croke Park today confirming that all GAA activity is forbidden before April 19 but that no decision has been made about the scheduling of either the league or this summer's inter-county championships.

Yesterday, the Ladies Gaelic Football Association declared that their spring competitions were now cancelled and will not be completed.

With the Taoiseach announcing a shut down of all sporting events until April 19, the GAA are as yet reluctant to give up on the remaining games in their secondary competitions.

The situation is under review but given the current uncertainty over the level of coronavirus infection in the community, the prospect of any sport taking place in May is highly unlikely.

Uncertainty

There are currently two outstanding rounds of the football league, with relegation and promotion to all four divisions still to be decided.

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Croke Park is now closed to GAA action. 
Pics: Sportsfile

Croke Park is now closed to GAA action. Pics: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Croke Park is now closed to GAA action. Pics: Sportsfile

Complicating matters still further is the championship status of the teams who will compete in Division 3 and Division 4 next year.

Those counties had been scheduled to enter the newly-minted Tailteann Cup this summer.

However, with huge uncertainty over the size of window the GAA will have into which to fit its championship programme, the second tier competition is a likely casualty.

However, one possible solution - time permitting - is to use the remaining two rounds of the league as effective warm-up games for the championship.

With a complete ban on all collective activity, there is an acceptance that Croke Park cannot simply fix championship games, particularly if they are straight knock-out, immediately after a resumption of social normalities.

But given the uniqueness of the situation, counties are unlikely to be resistant to fulfilling their programme of league fixtures soon after returning to training.

Complicating matters for the GAA are the differing approaches to COVID-19 either side of the border.

Unless the restrictions on movement are lifted simultaneously by the British and Irish governments, some teams may be forced into longer periods of activity while their rivals recommence preparations for summer.

The situation is under constant review but a GAA source indicated that any prediction over revised formats to the football and hurling championships were merely speculation at this point.

The big winners if the football league Is abandoned...

Fermanagh

The likelihood now is that every team will be spared participation in the inaugural Tailteann Cup, a fate Fermanagh were all but resigned to before the enforced break.

But after a spring when Ryan McMenamin struggled for numbers and was forced to bring Fermanagh over the border to his native Tyrone to avail of adequate training facilities, they'll have a far better chance of staying up in 2021 if the GAA hit the 'reset button.

Meath

Mitigation in Meath's pointless Division 1 campaign to date was localised in their lengthy injury list. But over the past three weeks; against Mayo, Kerry and Galway, Andy McEntee's side looked like they could mix it at the top level, albeit not quite finish off the job.

A bit like their 2019 'Super 8s' experience, this spring will serve as a useful learning exercise, particularly if there are no relegation ramifications.

And the big losers...

Dublin

By the time Dessie Farrell begins preparations for whatever is left of this 2020 season, he will have completed just eight weeks training with his squad.

Further trialling of his fringe players was still a requirement before this spring hibernation while Stephen Cluxon, Cian O'Sullivan, Jonny Cooper, Michael Darragh Macauley, Diarmuid Connolly and Con O'Callaghan had yet to see a minute of league action.

Whatever about Dublin's perennial waltz through Leinster serving as an effective pre-season, an 'open draw' format championship could put them into choppier waters much earlier.

Armagh

Other than Division 4 side Antrim (+29), Kerian McGeeney's team have the best scoring difference of any team across the Leagues (+27).

They also have a home game against Roscommon and a trip to Clare remaining.

Form-holding, they would have been expected to get enough from those two games to seal promotion, a timely psychological lift for a team seemingly on the brink of something.