GAA president John Horan has confirmed that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic shaped decisions taken over the timing of competitions in 2021. 

Inter-county fare will kick off the GAA year in late February, with club action set to commence on the weekend of 24-25 July, a week after the All-Ireland SFC final. 

"Teams won't be allowed to return to training until the middle of January and the competitions will start towards the end of February," Horan told RTÉ Sport. 

"The National Football League will be broken into a regional competition. Division 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be in two groups of four. The top two in each group will play in semi-finals and finals, and the bottom two in each group will play off for the relegation places. 

"The finals of the National Football League will be on 3 April, the finals of the National Hurling League will be on 10 April.

"The championship in football will start on 17 April and the championship in hurling will start on 24 April, hoping to have the finals played in July."

A club-first system had been considered, but the likelihood of rigorous public health restrictions throughout the early months of the new year – likely only allowing competition for elite athletes – made the GAA's decision an inevitable one. 

"Inter-county is going to go first and club latterly," Horan added. 

"It was felt that serves the purposes of the club far better, that the overlapped features of previous times that caused difficulty would not be there.

"We're not sure where we are going to be with the pandemic situation come the new year, so in that sense it was far easier to actually plan to have the inter-county first.

"It will be a safer environment because even at higher levels, we're allowed play inter-county, whereas the club scene hopefully will take off later in the year.

"Hopefully at that stage, we'll have seen some light at the end of the tunnel in this pandemic.

"It caused a huge debate because there are financial implications and there are the issues of supporters coming to the games. 

"It was felt that we have to act in the best interests and that is the best interest of the association, I think, to serve the club well."