THE SPORTING DIARY: Only solution may be a GAA Open Draw championship for 2020


THE SPORTING DIARY:  Only solution may be a GAA Open Draw championship for 2020

Just two weeks into this sports exile and the strain is beginning to show. It seems like months rather than days since we were thrown into a sports blackout. All our plans for Kerry and Tralee last weekend are like a bad dream. I had planned staying in Listowel for two nights and having a break in Galway on the way home.
All up in smoke.
Will we have an All-Ireland championship in 2020? Will we have a club championship?
Hopefully, there will be a window. But it will need a huge effort on the part of everyone to defeat the coronavirus threat. But with co-operation it can and will be done.
And when we come out the other side we will probably need our administrators to be as nimble on their feet as Jamie Brennan and as strong as Michael Murphy.
It will take a 'left field' decision to find a window to run off an All-Ireland championship. In a best case scenario we will not have any football being played until July. And if we give teams another couple of weeks to prepare, it may be necessary to compress any championship into a six or eight week window.
It may sound clinical, but the only possible solution may be an open draw All-Ireland championship with 32 teams in a hat (London included if they are free to travel). Otherwise there would be one first round bye.
With games week-on-week it would take four weeks to get finalists. And if you allow a week's break before the final, you start on weekend 25/26 July; last 16 games on 1/2 August; quarter-finals on 8/9th August and semi-finals on 15/16 August. All-Ireland final on Sunday, August 30.
This would allow September for a similar open draw club championship in every county which could be really exciting.
It might not be welcomed by all but necessity can once again become the mother of invention. There will be time then to return to some sort of normality in 2021 and hopefully Covid-19 will be history.
Hurling championships would also be knock-out and obviously would take up less weekends with finals on Sunday August 23 or Sunday September 6.
It would obviously mean that Donegal would not retain their Ulster senior championship title, but at this stage it looks as if the provincial championships will become victim of the pandemic. Given that games are set to start in May, and with teams not allowed to train, there isn't the remotest chance of meeting those deadlines.
But while losing the provincial championships would be disappointing, we may have to live with that. But having an open draw for an All-Ireland championship would be a really exciting prospect. Imagine the viewing figures that RTE would have for that draw.
Hold that thought while we get through the next couple of months.

Season Ticket holders
In a conversation with a committed Donegal supporter last week, the issue of Season Ticket holders was raised. Donegal don't have as many season ticket holders as in the past, but they still have a sizeable number. Mayo and Dublin are tops as regards numbers.
With the Allianz Leagues likely to be abandoned with two games to go and the championship in limbo, the GAA will have to make some compensation to those who committed to buying those tickets prior to Christmas. If Donegal were to play one more game (championship) and be eliminated, then the season ticket holder would have had a poor return for their investment.
I'm sure Croke Park will address this issue. It is just one of a number of big decisions they have to make in the coming weeks.

Win a House draw
The Donegal Co Board must be cursing their luck with their House Draw coming in the middle of this coronavirus. The organisers have put a huge effort into the draw and the draw date may have to be extended in order for it to be a success.
With so many workers being laid off temporarily, it will be a difficult time for ticket sellers. But, no doubt, Donegal people at home and all over the world, will step up to the mark. The prize fund is still attractive and imagine what a lift it would give to any family to win such a prize.
It could be 10 weeks before we see some light - €10 a week would buy a ticket.
As Donal Reid might say . . . keep the faith.

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