The Fermanagh and Western League are facing increasingly difficult decisions as they seek to plot the best route to the end of the season, after the latest restrictions pushed their restart date further back.

With no club having played more than four games of a scheduled 26-game season in Division One, league Chairman Neil Jardine admits that time is running out to squeeze in the games necessary to complete a full campaign.

“We are at the stage now that we have to consider what is viable and what is possible,” he admitted.

“We don’t want to be in a position where we keep scheduling fixtures and only get some played, and then come to March time and realise there is no way we going to complete the season.

“At what stage do we think it is not going to be possible to complete a full set of fixtures?

“Primarily, we are taking about Division One, but if you can’t complete one division, then you can’t complete any, due to promotion and relegation.

“Division Two and Three would possibly be completed within a reasonable timeframe, but it is almost pointless, because a team could win Division Two, but because we were unable to complete Division One they couldn’t go up, and no-one could be relegated from Division One.

“Is there a cut-off point where we realise this can’t be done?”

The best-case scenario would allow football to resume on December 12, just hours after the current restrictions are due to be eased, but that means clubs would be straight into competitive matches without any recent training.

Traditionally, the league have not played on the Saturday preceding Christmas, but that date is now an option for the league.

The situation is further complicated by the fact the Irish Junior Cup was scheduled to run on December 5 and December 12, and it is not yet clear if these matches would be rescheduled to prevent a league start before Christmas.

“Despite everything that has happened I think clubs would be very reticent in going straight into a match situation without some training sessions,” reckoned Jardine.

“If there is a clearance on December 11, and there is no further pushback, then teams are coming into that cold, having not trained and no ballwork at all coming into the match.

“We can’t plan anything until the Junior Cup is sorted, so there are a lot of unknowns at present.”

The League Management committee will meet this Monday to discuss the options open to them, but a definite decision on the best way to move forward remains a guessing game, as they look to juggle the games between the unknowns of possible future restrictions and the Winter weather.

“You are trying to crystal ball gaze because nobody knows,” admitted Jardine.

“We can’t control what is going to happen with further restrictions, and what way the weather will be. Sods Law would be this is the year it’s a bad Winter, and if you lose most of January and part of February to bad weather, where are you then?

“This is what we have to look at when we are targeting a finish to the season.

“We are due to meet on Monday, and we will look at our options and what is possible. It would be a major decision to say we didn’t think the season would be completed, and what do we do then?

“Do we play out two cup competitions and look at putting something in to replace a league competition?

“That would be a one-off, and maybe some people would wonder what the point was, but we are getting back that people just want to play football.

“I wish there were more quantitative outcomes rather than qualitative and surmising what may happen, but unfortunately that is the situation we are in.

“Of course, there could be no more lockdowns, there could be good weather, and then you are sitting at the start of April saying, ‘We could have finished this league no problem at all’.

“Monday night’s committee meeting will be a single-item agenda. We will go through as much as we can and make a decision based on what evidence we have, although so much of it is unknown,” said Jardine.