Members of the public walking outside Páirc Uí Chaoimh. All GAA activity in the country has been suspended following directives from the Irish Government and the Department of Health in an effort to contain the spread of the Coronavirus. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

Sport secondary as crisis deepens around the country

As I watched An Taoiseach address the nation on St Patrick’s night, it was clear that it will be sometime before the playing fields of our country will see action again.

There is little doubt that the health and well being of everyone is paramount right now in this deepening crisis and the manner in which all sporting bodies have responded is to be commended.

For us in the GAA it begs the question, and it may seem trivial in the circumstances, how will the season unfold, if and when it resumes?

The suspension of the National Leagues will hit all boards financially as the monies accrued in the league is channelled back into the counties.

A league final appearance in hurling and football can generate vital funds for county boards, many of whom need and depend on it.

Another issue that will have to be addressed, especially in football, is that the league and championship are now linked with the proposed introduction of the Tier 2 competition in the summer.

At the conclusion of the league, in most cases, counties in Division 1 and Division 2 will be not feature in the Tier 2 championship. In Cork’s case, they currently top Division 3 and are on the cusp of promotion. But will they get the opportunity to complete their programme, home to Louth and away to Longord, unlikely I would think.

The options? Try and conclude the league but in a tight schedule that will be difficult, or defer the introduction of the Tier 2 championship until next year and if possible play the championship under the same format as in previous years.

What about hurling? As we know the Munster and Leinster championship are played in a round-robin format, due to commence on 10 May, there's a bit of leeway yet before any decision can and must be made but if teams cannot train will they be keen to play the championship on that date?

The options are similar to football, park the round-robin for one year and revert to the old format, not ideal but maybe necessary.

One other issue of course is sponsors who have ploughed big money into the championships, how will any decisions that are made impact on their financial contribution?

Locally it seems unlikely now that the club championship programme scheduled for April will take place.

Between 3 April and the end of the month, the majority of clubs in both hurling and football were due to play their opening games in the restructured championships.

With a nationwide ban on training until 29 March which is almost certain to be extended, clubs cannot be expected to play championship a week later.

To date Limerick, Dublin and Waterford have postponed their championship programme for April, many more will follow I suspect, Cork County Board should not delay any further and should make the call and defer the games.

This year, of course, there is a new format, one I did not favour I should point out, where the championships are now played on group basis with all teams playing three games.

The fixture programme set out by the CCC, allowed for one game in April in the main grades senior and premier intermediate, with the other two fixed for August and in some cases September.

If, as expected, the April games are lost, when can they be played given the schedule is so tight? It's even tighter again here in Cork with the majority of clubs on Leeside playing in a dual capacity.

If both Cork teams make progress in the championship, and we all hope they do, that will only complicate matters.

The other area of concern is that the respective Munster and All-Ireland club championships are due to be completed in the calendar year, how will those deadlines be met in a tightening programme?For those charged with fixture making at both local and national level, they have some hard calls to make in the coming weeks, and they are dealing with events outside of their control, we wish them well in their endeavours.

Financially for Cork, the loss of games in April could not come at a worse time as the board’s finances are not, as is well documented, in a healthy state.

Given that major sporting events around Europe and beyond are being postponed or re-scheduled, we are entering uncharted waters, and how it will end no one knows.

Finally to all those out there working in our health services and other essential areas, keep up the good work - it is really appreciated by all.

Be safe.

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