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GAA chiefs opt to go for a knockout All Ireland Championship as provincial draws scrapped

 

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Sport in Northern Ireland looks set to align with that in the Republic following confirmation that competitive GAA club games will commence in both jurisdictions on July 17. (stock photo)

Sport in Northern Ireland looks set to align with that in the Republic following confirmation that competitive GAA club games will commence in both jurisdictions on July 17. (stock photo)

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Sport in Northern Ireland looks set to align with that in the Republic following confirmation that competitive GAA club games will commence in both jurisdictions on July 17. (stock photo)

Sport in Northern Ireland looks set to align with that in the Republic following confirmation that competitive GAA club games will commence in both jurisdictions on July 17.

The Ulster Council had been awaiting an announcement from the NI Executive in relation to this and now it would appear that it is all systems go for a full-scale club fixtures programme across the island as a whole.

While county boards for the most part have already drawn up their internal fixtures itineraries, clarification is still awaited on what protocols a club should follow if a player contracts Covid-19.

With club teams preparing to return to full contact training from Monday, GAA chiefs hope to be in a position to provide further information on what steps should be taken and what the definition of close or casual contact is.

While this guidance is awaited, the fact that the remaining two rounds of the Allianz League and confirmation that the All-Ireland Championship will be played on a straight knockout basis brings clarity to the overall end-of-year programme following much speculation.

This means that the provincial Championship draws that have already been made will be declared null and void.

Obviously this will be a disappointment to the Ulster Council in particular, which views the Senior Football Championship as a long-term jewel in its fixtures crown.

There are still concerns over how a return to play will work out with 17% of inter-county players, according to a Gaelic Players' Association poll, uncertain about their participation.

One leading Ulster official said last night: "It is a matter of personal choice whether players wish to commit or not for the remainder of this year. We are in the throes of an unprecedented situation."

Belfast Telegraph