The GAA's director of player, club and games administration Feargal McGill said finishing the inter-county schedule before the club campaign begins is "a no-brainer" as the association confirmed plans to have a split season in 2021.  

The Allianz Leagues will begin at the end of February and the championship will be wrapped up in July, with the club championships commencing thereafter. They'll incorporate county, provincial and the All-Ireland series until mid-December when the All-Ireland club football semi-finals will be played.

Explaining the decision on Monday, McGill said: "I think if you took a short-term view you would say there is no guarantee we will be able to play club games in the first quarter of the year.

"We aren't allowed do them now. That's if we look at the short term, but if we look at the longer time, if the GAA are going to bring in a split season and it will be on the agenda for Congress in February, I think the right decision is still to put the county game first.

"If you ran with the club game first you could end up playing county finals at the end of April, the early part of May because then you have to run the provincial and All-Ireland club championships.

"That would be very early for the flagship team in every club to be finished their activity, we don't think that would have been a good approach. There would be less appetite for teams to play in leagues and non championship competitions once they are eliminated from the county championships.

"The third obvious thing is that if you ran with club first towards the end of the club season with the inter-county return to training would be eating into the time available for clubs. For all those reasons we think county first is a no-brainer to be quite honest."

"It is a better games programme than the one we had in 2020."

The new split-season template had been presented to the GAA Management Committee before receiving the green light at a Central Council meeting last Friday.

A club-first 2021 season would have seen teams return to training in late February and play right through until the All-Ireland club finals in mid-August. The inter-county season would have commenced on 31 July and concluded in late December.

There was much stronger support for a county-first season however, with McGill adding: "We wanted to provide proper downtime for counties. That ate into the time available. So then at the other end we wanted to make sure there was time enough for the club game.

"I suppose the big thing we are happy about is to see the provincial and All Ireland club championships being back in there.

"We do think we have created a very good window for club competitions during the summer.

"So I would say overall we are pretty happy. It is a better games programme than the one we had in 2020. I definitely think there is a little bit extra in there. Hopefully it all works well."

It's expected that the Allianz Leagues will begin on the weekend of 27-28 February, with each of the four football divisions divided in two on a regional basis. The hurling league will see two groups of six in Division 1 with no quarter-finals or semi-finals. The league final will take place on the second weekend in April, a week after the football finals.