The GAA has confirmed that this year's All-Ireland Hurling and Football finals will be played in December and a winner must be determined on the day.
The All-Ireland Hurling final will take place on Sunday December 13th, with the Joe McDonagh Cup final set to be the curtain raiser at Croke Park. The draw for the Leinster and Munster Championships will be made later this evening with each team assured of two fixtures.
The provincial winners will progress directly to the All-Ireland semi-finals with the beaten finalists set to face the final round qualifier winners for a place in the last four. There will be no place in the All-Ireland senior championship this season for the Joe McDonagh Cup winners or finalists.
The existing provincial championship draws remain in place for the straight knockout championships in football, though New York will not compete due to travel restrictions. The four provincial champions advance to the semi-finals with a draw last night determining that Leinster will face Ulster and Connacht will play Munster in the last four of the All-Ireland series. The final will be played on the evening of Saturday, December 19th at Croke Park.
When asked by OTB Sports about whether an open draw football championship was considered, the GAA's director of games, club and player welfare Feargal McGill outlined their reasoning for sticking with the provincial system:
“We didn’t rule anything in or out when we sat down to do the fixtures. A couple of things though did occur to us while we were doing those, the first thing is if you play the provincial championships in football, you’re going to have four teams with silverware at the end of the year.
"In hurling, you’re going to have two teams as winners and possibly three if a different team wins an All-Ireland. So that was one of the reasons, you’re going to have five finals and at least four teams with silverware.
"Another reason was, you have to consider, what are you trying to solve in terms of having an open draw? Usually people will tell you, what you’re going to solve is avoiding cannon fodder for the big teams. But an open draw does not solve that, in fact it might add to it.
"So on balance, we felt the best approach was the provincial championships.
“The big thing is we’re keeping an eye on 2021 as well. So if you went into January, February with your championships, it causes mayhem for 2021. I suppose we wanted to minimise the damage, for want of a better word, that Covid has done to the GAA and done to our fixtures.
The provincial and All-Ireland club championships have no been lost from the 2020 calendar and McGill says something was going to have to give in balancing the fixtures plan:
"It’s like pulling off a plaster, get it done as quickly as you can and try to get back to normal as soon as you can. We will be coming back obviously with a 2021 Master Fixtures Plan later in the year and I think it’ll make more sense then as to why we did what we did. We’re still probably going to have to compromise a bit around the 2021 calendar.
"But if you went into January and February, you have to build in a rest period after the All-Ireland finals are over. So really if you’re talking about playing an All-Ireland final in February you’re talking about not being able to restart until March or April and the knock-on effect of that would obviously be a negative one for clubs. So that was at the centre of our thinking as well.”
All knockout games must be completed on the day, meaning penalties could decide provincial and All-Ireland finals for the first time.
The final two rounds of games in the Allianz Football League will be played in October in advance of the championship but the Tailteann Cup won't take place this season.