THERE is a distinct possibility that some Allianz National League matches may be played in the middle of the week following the news that intercounty teams are permitted to resume collective training from April 19.
It had been hoped that intercounty training could resume on April 12 in line with the club return in the North, but the Irish Government set a more cautious return date of April 19 following a meeting on Tuesday.
The National Leagues are still likely to go ahead sometime in May in a regionalised and compacted format, but the window is narrowing for a full games programme – so flexibility, including the potential of mid-week league fixtures, may be required to alleviate the pressure on the calendar.
The GAA is expected to confirm its revised master fixtures calendar by the end of next week, and it remains to be seen whether they’ll now have the capacity to run off a fairly conventional All-Ireland Senior Football Championship with Qualifiers.
Nevertheless, Monaghan legend Gerry McCarville believes it’s crucially important that the leagues do go ahead so that teams have adequate level of preparation for the championship – even that entails fixtures being played on a Wednesday or Thursday night.
“It wouldn’t do a bit of harm. They’re going to have to get games fitted in somewhere because the championship needs to get played more than anything else. It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s knock-out again last year.
“I think if there’s no second chance, counties will definitely need a few league matches to get prepared for that one big game, say if they’re drawn against the likes of Cavan and Tyrone. You have to be on top of your game and you’ll need league games to see how you’re going.”
The Farney county had a poor championship last year, losing their do-or-die clash against Cavan in the preliminary round of the Ulster Championship. Still, a new year brings new hope, and even though they’ve lost a few big figures from the backroom, they’ve helped soften the blow by bringing in Donie Buckley to help out manager Seamus McEnaney.
McCarville believes they still have the raw ingredients to make their mark this year, and they’re set to play in a regionalised league campaign against Donegal, Tyrone and Armagh.
“Those players are mad to get back it, and it’s great to see it opening up again. There’ll probably be no supporters at it, but hopefully they’ll get club football up and running again in a couple of months time. It’ll be great to see juveniles and everyone else back playing. I was talking to Darren Hughes last week and he’s champing at the bit, he was hoping it would get opened again this month, so at least they’ll be back training on the 19th.
“Everyone’s looking forward to it, they’ve played one championship match last year so the long break is bound to be doing their head in.
“We’ll be hoping to get a few players through, there were no club league matches last year, there was just championship and that probably wasn’t great for player development.
“But they’ve a good enough set-up in Monagham, if they get them to perform they’re still a strong outfit, and there’s young lads like Andrew Woods, Ryan O’Toole and and Sean Jones, who will be looking for starting positions.