READY FOR ACTION Leitrim manager Andy Moran, right, and selector Mike Solan are pictured before Monday evening’s Connacht FBD League match at the NUI Galway Connacht GAA Air Dome in Bekan. Pic: Sportsfile
SO it turned out the rumours of the FBD Connacht League’s demise had been greatly exaggerated. It’s back — just not as we knew it.
After being shelved last year due to Covid restrictions, the much-maligned pre-season competition got underway again yesterday evening (Monday) in the Connacht GAA Air Dome when Sligo played Leitrim, who are now under the management of Andy Moran.
Next into the state-of-the-art arena in Bekan will be the footballers of Mayo and Galway on Friday evening when they meet in the first of the competition’s semi-finals at 6pm.
Unfortunately, any prospects of a huge crowd watching the two Connacht heavyweights in action have been dashed by the recent rise in Covid cases and subsequent restrictions.
“There were 300 spectators allowed for Monday evening’s match between Sligo and Leitrim, and I don’t see that changing for Friday evening,” Connacht GAA secretary John Prenty told The Mayo News last night. “At the moment we’re allowed to have 50 percent of our seated capacity of 600, so the 300 tickets for spectators will be allocated via the Galway and Mayo County Boards.
“The match is being streamed live by Connacht GAA, so anybody who would like to watch it should keep an eye on social media and just follow the links that will be up there on Friday,” he added.
“Anybody who attends the game will have their Covid vaccine certs checked on the way in, and they will obviously be expected to wear a mask as well.”
Current public health guidelines also dictate that all matches being played in The Dome must have concluded before 8pm, so if Friday’s game finishes in a draw at the end of normal time, the next team to score will advance to the final.
“If the game is level at full-time then it will straight to ‘golden score’ or ‘next score wins’ as there simply isn’t time to play extra-time or have a penalty shoot-out,” explained John Prenty.
“Another aspect for supporters to be aware of is that there can only be 26 players in each squad, but each one of those players can be brought on. However, if they’re taken off at any stage they can’t be brought back on again a second time.”
Friday evening’s game will be the first of two meetings between Mayo and Galway this year as the counties have also been drawn against each other in the Connacht SFC semi-final on April 24 next. They are operating in different divisions of the National League.
All of the counties competing in the FBD League have trained in The Dome in recent weeks, and John Prenty says he believes ‘it’s going to be a really good competition’.
“There seems to be a lot of interest in it,” he said. “We have four matches being played in the space of 11 days and it’s going to give teams a chance to get some match practice in ahead of the National League.
“Teams were going to be playing challenge matches anyway so this means that they are travelling shorter distances and staying within the Connacht region. I can see a lot of it people watching the games online as well, given the current Covid restrictions.”
The final of the FBD League is down for decision on Friday, January 14.
FBD League semi-final
Mayo v Galway
Friday, January 7
Bekan at 6pm
Referee: J Gilmartin (Sligo)