Will Gaelic games or any sport return in 2020?
Last Friday, the GAA held a Special Congress, remotely, at which the power was given to the Management Committee to alter the structure of the championship.
There was no objection to this, although it is believed that London GAA, through their representative, sought to have an input into any decision, but this was ruled out of order as they submitted their views after the agreed time for such observations.
In the immediate aftermath, the association felt it would be August at the earliest before inter-county activity would resume, suggesting that club games would take priority - at all times stressing that they would be guided by the health authorities.
On Sunday, Health Minister Simon Harris said: “We are unlikely to see mass gatherings for some time,” casting serious doubts over sport resuming at any time soon.
The confirmation on Tuesday that such gatherings of over 5,000 would not receive a licence until September at least, doesn’t bode well for the resumption of the provincial or All-Ireland championships.
Playing championship behind closed doors has also been mooted, although President John Horan has said this was not an avenue they were considering.
Will Tuesday’s announcement alter that thinking given the broadcasting contracts that the association have agreed with RTÉ and Sky?
There has been mixed views on this from players and managers, some in favour, others not so keen, including Cork hurling captain Patrick Horgan who did not fancy the idea of playing in an empty stadium.
Personally playing behind closed doors would do little for the games - part of the nature of championship is the interaction between supporters and teams - could you call it a championship with no one in attendance, could the winners justifiably call themselves champions at the end of it all?
It would also send out all the wrong signals should that avenue be pursued. I accept players want to play, but down through the ages the GAA has thrived on the goodwill it received from its supporters and their views should be considered in any decision that is been made.
The next question is, where does the club championship stand in all these permutations, if they can proceed?
Very few games, finals the exception, attract a crowd in excess of 5,000, which in certain circumstances and under specific guidelines could proceed.
Most county boards and certainly players I am sure, would like to see the championships commence as they, the boards, depend on the revenue these generate to fund their various activities, and while finance is the least important issue right now, it is a factor.
Cork, with Páirc Uí Chaoimh and Páirc Uí Rinn available, managing crowds would be easily attained; now not every game is played at these venues, playing at club grounds which are used for earlier rounds might make this a bit more difficult to implement but given the resolve within most clubs, it can be achieved.
It is understood a conference call involving all counties and Croke Park took place in the last couple of days, in which counties sought the authority to change the structure of their respective championships, which I am sure was approved, given the circumstances we now find ourselves in.
If the County Board, as seems likely will change their format, this will reduce the number of games, and if there is to be little or no inter-county action, we might still have something to look forward to in the coming months, where the club for once might actually stage centre stage.
Of course the other issue that comes into play is the ‘social distancing’ aspect, that is unavoidable in our games.
Would players and mentors be comfortable playing while this is still been encouraged in all areas of our lives right now and looks set to be with us for the foreseeable future?
There is also the very real prospect that all sport could be abandoned for 2020, hopefully this will not happen but the next few weeks will tell us a little bit more.
--In the meantime, be safe.