The All-Ireland Football Championship is set for a blast from the past this year.
The coronavirus pandemic has forced the GAA to delay its start, with the current plan believed to be beginning the Championship on the weekend of 31 October – after the final two rounds of the Allianz Football League – with the All-Ireland final on 13 December.
The format will be a familiar one to anyone who followed Gaelic football in the last millennium: a provincial knock-out championship from the start and the four winners progressing to All-Ireland semi-finals. No back-door, no Super 8s.
Former Westmeath star Dessie Dolan thinks the GAA have missed a golden opportunity to try something different this year, and not just because his county have the daunting task of ending Dublin's reign in Leinster if they are to play a second Championship game.
Two from Cork, Kerry, Donegal and Tyrone will also have a one-match campaign.
"I would have loved to have seen an open draw – the possibility of Cork playing Tyrone in the first round, just open it up and pick out the best matches and get them on TV," Dolan told the RTÉ GAA Podcast.
"You’re still going to have a few games early on that might not be the most appetising for supporters."
We need your consent to load this YouTube contentWe use YouTube to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences
The lack of a quarter-final stage means all but three of this year's contests will be provincial but Kevin McStay thinks the draws being made last Autumn left the GAA "kind of hamstrung" in keeping the much-maligned format.
"To make that draw null and void would have taken a fair leap of faith by the four provinces," said the former Mayo footballer and Roscommon manager.
"But I do think it was a trick that was missed.
"In the current environment, you could have got any format through because everybody is so looking forward to games of any description, that everybody and would have parked their prejudices for the three months and gone with it.
"It is a massive financial stream and it (a Championship) was always going to take place. The manner in which it's taking place now sticks with the old tried and trusted, which is the provincial system.
"Even though a lot of us would argue it’s kind of a dead duck. There is one, perhaps two, big games in every province.
"But the GAA aren’t really at that stage yet. They haven’t really figured out the geography of the 8s and the 16s and 32s and how that all might be done.
"There would be a lot of dead matches in an open draw unless you had 16 teams seeded."
Dolan accepts that it's doubtful the four provincial councils would welcome any changes that would dilute their roles in setting fixtures and collecting gate receipts.
"Any reform that is going to take place has to be done with the co-operation of the provincial councils," he said.
"They are very slow to let go of the power that they have.
"The change part of it is so slow in the GAA. I don’t really blame the president of the GAA or the guys in Croke Park, the reality is the provincial councils are the power brokers in the fixture lists."
We need your consent to load this SoundCloud contentWe use SoundCloud to manage extra content that can set cookies on your device and collect data about your activity. Please review their details and accept them to load the content.Manage Preferences