GAA roadmap: Inter-county SFC championship again straight knockout in 2021 with Leagues starting in mid-May

Cavan stunned Donegal in last year's Ulster Football Final played in November
The Ulster Football Final will take place on the weekend of 31 July-1 August

This year's inter-county football championship will again have a straight knockout format with the National League starting in mid-May.

News of the retention of the straight knockout format used last year because of Covid-19 came in the GAA's return to play roadmap announced on Thursday.

Once again, the new second-tier football Championship Tailteann Cup will not take place in 2021.

The Football League will start on 15-16 May with the finals five weeks later.

The Football League finals are scheduled for the weekend of 19-20 June but they will only take place if the teams involved are not featuring in the first series of championship matches over the following weekend.

Croke Park has opted to stick with the regional league format announced earlier this year which, for example, will mean Armagh, Donegal, Tyrone and Monaghan involved in Division One North, while as was the case in the autumn games of last year's competition, London will not participate in the Football and Hurling Leagues.

The Hurling League will begin on the weekend of 8-9 May with Antrim and the other Division One A and B teams playing a full programme of five games.

With the championship season starting on 26 June and continuing through until the All-Ireland Football Final on the last weekend in August, that will mean a 20-week inter-county season of league and championship competition before club action starts on the first weekend of September.

Kilcoo's Dylan Ward battles with Corofin's Dylan Wall in the All-Ireland Club Football Final in January of last year
The provincial and All-Ireland Club Championship had to be sacrificed last season because of the global pandemic

Provincial club championships to return

The Ulster Football Final is earmarked to take place on the weekend of 31 July-1 August with the provincial champions from the northern province up against the Munster winners in the All-Ireland semi-finals.

Last year, Cavan met Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-finals with the Dubs going on to clinch a sixth successive Sam Maguire Cup as they beat Mayo in the decider on the Saturday before Christmas.

Inter-county players will be allowed to represent their clubs as soon as county teams are knocked out of the provincial championships, which in essence will mean all county players - bar those involved in All-Ireland semi-finals - will be available to their clubs by 1 August.

The provincial club championships - which did not take place last season - will return in mid-November and the GAA will ensure counties involved in the latter stages of the All-Ireland Championships will be last out in the provincial club championships.

Referring to Thursday's earlier news of the Monaghan football team's breach of the GAA's Covid-19 protocols which has led the Monaghan county board to hand a 12-week suspension to manager Seamus McEnaney, GAA president Larry McCarthy admitted the affair had caused the association more "reputational damage".

Last week, news emerged of a similar breach by the Dublin football squad which led to Dubs manager Dessie Farrell receiving a 12-week ban from his county's board.

The GAA president said that the association's investigation into the Monaghan matter was "ongoing".

As of yet, there are no return dates for collective inter-county minor or under-20 training as the GAA awaits further instruction from the Irish Government.

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