Focus has to be on club action now

The announcement by the Government today (here) on mass gatherings this summer has cast further doubt on the viability of Championship action resuming any time soon. The Government confirmed that gatherings requiring local authority licences to cater for crowds in excess of 5,000 will not be permitted this side of September. While the statement made no mention of sporting events, it’s being interpreted in the media (see RTÉ report here) as including such events.

Assuming that the licensing requirement does extend to GAA matches, this means that the ban on crowds over 5,000 will remain in place until after the date that’s currently scheduled for this year’s football and hurling All-Ireland finals. I think it’s fair to conclude that those dates have now been blown clear out of the water.

That doesn’t yet mean that the GAA is out of options. It could try to play at least some of the matches behind closed doors, though the practicality of doing so – especially in the months of June and July – has to be questioned.

In any event, what the GAA desperately wants is to see punters flocking through the turnstiles again as the vast bulk of its annual revenues come from ticket sales for matches. Most of that revenue is now unlikely to be realised this year and a decision to push ahead with a closed-door Championship would ensure this is the case.

The GAA could, of course, aim to run off a shortened Championship – a re-run of the 1984 Centenary Cup, anyone? – which, in theory at least, could be wrapped up in six or seven weeks. It could aim for a December decider and work the format back from there. It wouldn’t, indeed, be the first All-Ireland final to be played in the depths of winter.

But you’d have to wonder if there’s any point. The Covid-19 pandemic has caused such dislocation to life in general, obliterating the sporting calendar in all codes right across the world, that it’s almost unseemly to want to see the Championships – whatever the form, regardless of the match-day arrangements – played to a finish before the book is closed on 2020.

The GAA has always said that its clubs lie at the heart of the association. While clubs have become used to a diet of platitudes from on high down the years and have, in particular in recent times, had to play second fiddle behind the inter-county juggernaut, the fixtures hiatus caused by the pandemic presents the GAA with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the clubs the main focus of its annual activities.

In a way they already are, with club volunteers up and down the country involved in priceless work in their communities, helping to make sure that those in need of support are looked after. That volunteer ethos was always there and it’s still there now at a time in this country’s history when it’s needed more than ever.

What a fitting tribute it would be, then, for the GAA to announce that, once the go-ahead is given for sporting events involving crowds of less than 5,000 to resume, its pitches will be given over exclusively to club action. This would ensure that the vast majority of GAA playing members would get to play matches in the summer months – when did that last happen? – while supporters would be able to get out and sample some live action once again.

If it turns out there’s still time in the back-end to squeeze in a rapid-fire inter-county Championship as well then so much the better. But if there isn’t then there’s no harm done either.

We’re all fated to remember 2020 for reasons other than football and, in relation to the GAA, what we’ll want to recall about this year was the great work done on the ground by club volunteers. Putting club action at the top of the GAA’s agenda for 2020 would be a very fitting way to recognise this.

50 thoughts on “Focus has to be on club action now

  1. The Gaa is an amateur organisation ( in theory anyway), there isn’t a hope in hell of any games with large crowds in attendance going ahead in 2020, County or Club, it just wouldn’t be fair on the players, officials and coaches.
    Professional Sports such as Soccer and Rugby may get the green light later in the year but I fear that there may be no Sports at all for a long while.
    The Brits are working on a vaccine, if successfully tested on people than everything will change and be brought forward.

  2. Things have changed so fast in a few short weeks but they can change for the good also so let’s just wait and see…I agree inter county is practically gone but as you said WJ wouldn’t it be great to see the club championship go ahead and get a renewed spotlight on it.

    Mayo media including here offer great coverage and discussion on mayo club football but I’m often dismayed to why out club games don’t have bigger numbers?

    I know people who religiously follow Mayo up and down the country and around the world but barely ever attend their local club games…why is that? It’s something I would like to see change.

  3. Seems like the Championship is gone for this year…Who knows maybe the league will be finished by Late Autumn?..I imagine starting a new league program of Match’s in 2021 without the 2020 one finished would be problematic, only my opinion I’m no better than anyone else at predicting the future!

  4. Club activity will bring issues as well..
    Without inter county there will be a huge appetite for games.
    If Castlebar are playing Ballina in a club game in Mc Hale park on a miserable wet day you will get 5000 or more if not limited in the stand.
    Same all over Ireland, club games here in Galway will attract huge numbers to Athenry, Ballinasloe etc and the stands will be hoping.
    That’s before we take player welfare into account and the issues arising out of that..

  5. Yeah, has to be the common sense option Willie Joe

    Leantimes – yep it may not be a popular opinion here but I personally think they should try and play off the league this year before next year’s edition. If the 2021 league is available to go ahead in February I cant see any real difference in that and December/January (where they could finish 2020 version) at that stage

    Tuamstar – obviously they will just have to limit crowds which can be easily implemented. Lets not get too dramatic though, there will be a few hundred at best at your average club games (outside of the real latter stages). They can limit it to club members only if there really are issues, the GAA like basically everything will naturally have to adapt in the current climate

    The prospect of playing club matches right now in the peak of the pandemic might seem a bit hopeless – sure we can’t even travel beyond 2k nowadays – but things will change hugely in the coming months. If we’re not in a position to play club matches in front of small crowds later this year at some stage, it is worrying – as it’ll be down to the virus still being rampant, and we may as well forget about the economy and many of our livelihoods if such small events can’t even get the go ahead. The 5000 number is promising in a sense – it does give hope to the smaller events

    As Leo alluded to yesterday (in relation to pubs) waiting for a vaccine just is not feasible. According to some experts there may never be a vaccine. There just is not enough known about this blasted thing as of yet. If it can mutate into different forms, creating a vaccine becomes very problematic. I’ve done a lot of reading on it though, and (I’m nowhere near an expert) but it does look like our best hope for this particular year is a treatment of some sort over a vaccine. If a vaccine does come to market it could well be 2022 before widespread distribution and immunity may only last months at best

  6. @Ciaran, there actually now several candidate’s for Vaccines, and by next week there will be even more… But the nessary human trials, the time it takes to see will there be any ill effects in those Vaccinated, … There are also Vaccines for other disease’s already trialed, found to be safe and licenced, but do they work well for Covid 19??? ..This Virus only first appeared in December, so the knowledge just wasn’t there… Now with virtually every Country in the World affected by Covid 19, I doubt that anything close to the number of Scientist’s have ever been working on the same project in the History of Mankind…Be that, Research, Cure’s, Vaccines or better Testing… Nessessaty is the Mother of Invention…

  7. I’d be in favour of the league being scrapped this year. Trying to beat Galway and Tyrone and hoping results elsewhere goes our way is a tall order. Relegation would put the tin hat on the year alltogether.

  8. Ciaran . Big club hurling games in Galway often get 5 or 6 thousand, as I said the appetite now for GAA action will be massive..

  9. A leading immunologist in my neck of the woods has said that the crisis isn’t over until the coronavirus has gone conclusively, which he said could take until 2022-23.

    I don’t see contact sports resuming this year, maybe some sports like horse racing, tennis, golf behind closed doors.

  10. In my view it’s not going to happen this year….for a start how the hell do players social distance..?training,the dressing room and playing??plus if a player tested positive then his teammates would have to self isolate..!what happens then?
    Let’s be realistic about it..I hope we do get action on the pitch but if the virus is still in the country then social distancing will be required unfortunately

  11. CDC director saying a more lethal wave of the corona virus could potentially hit during the flu season.

    Reuters reporting UK official as saying that there is an incredibly small chance of a vaccine within 12 months.

    I hope they are both wrong.

    A fast food drive through reopened here in Galway today with cues of cars out the yazoo.

    What is essential about take away food ?

    I’m in the no games camp.
    I think any spike in transmissions could lead to further lockdown’s.

    The quicker we try to get back to some type of normality, the longer we are going to suffer with further transmissions and more deaths.

    The country and especially the decision makers have an unenviable task. They will be hammered if they don’t and hammered if they do.

  12. – When all is said and done there is no way social distance can be observed on the field of play unless you play 2 a side.
    – Therefore unless they eliminate the social distance regulation I cannot see any GAA this year.
    – I am confident the medics and researchers will develop treatments and a vaccine in record time
    – Until then the best way to support Mayo off the field is by buying local as much as possible.

  13. It seems to me it’s all about social distancing. Under what circumstances can we see the requirement of social distancing being lifted? I reckon only when we have a vaccine or some effective treatment for the virus where it no longer poses a deadly threat. I can’t see that happening for a long time. Therefore it’s my view that you can’t actually play football at all or even train until the social distancing requirement is lifted. So no football in 2020???
    Not long ago the prospect of no football in 2020 would be unconscionable for me. I live for football both at my own club and Mayo. I couldn’t imagine life without football but these last few days I’m starting to get used to the idea and sort of accepting it.
    Strange times indeed and I fear the world will not be the same again for a lot of people and sport may be a long way down their list of concerns.

  14. Liam O Neill was on Matt Cooper show tonight asked the question about any GAA games been played this year he said under no circumstances will they put any players under risk that is county club level and even under age so this has really answered our question there will be no GAA matches at any level this year.

  15. Maybe they might decide the All Ireland by having a penalty competition. The Connaught and Ulster u20 championships were both decided this way this year.

  16. The Dutch football league has been voided. No champions for this year and no teams relegated or promoted. I think the GAA should consider this too, for public health reasons of course 🙂

  17. @Wide Ball,.. The big issue of the day is so much bigger than the National League being cancelled, I will welcome the day it’s safe for a crowd to gather for a sporting fixture of any kind….I really wouldn’t care what Division Mayo play in ….If the league is abandoned, we can’t get promoted anyhow!….I know that this is a serious issue, but I am just looking at the 6 ONE News on RTE, and I have to share with ye my taughts on the latest Scientific Breakthrough by Donald Trump…I was wondering if Donald was trying to cure his Citizens or Excute them?

  18. You can forget about Gaa or going to a pub this year , it’s just not going to happen, we be lucky if football goes ahead February 21!

  19. Chris. If pubs stay closed until next year. Then the majority of them will never re open. This virus is going to be with us for the foreseeable future. 18 months minimum until a vaccine and thats not guaranteed. Constant lockdown is not the way forward. The economy has to keep ticking over or else it will never recover. People will have to get back to some sense of normality with the correct social distancing protocols In place.

  20. The idea of it being a club-only year is worthy of merit. As WJ says, the clubs themselves have stepped up as community-focused volunteer centres. It is great to see this side of the GAA so evident in a time when so many vulnerable people need the support that club volunteers are selflessly providing. Giving the clubs the focus for their games later in the year would be a just reward. But of course, it all depends on whether or not it is safe to do so.
    The players themselves are bursting for football. I coach a Junior team in Dublin and the amount of stuff they are doing individually to keep their fitness levels up is astonishing. The WhatsApp group has never been so busy with everyone recording their completion of daily fitness programmes that have been developed by the squad members themselves. They are all motivating and supporting each other. And they are a Junior team! I can only imagine what intercounty players are doing.
    I hope we see some football this year, but we just have to accept the advice of the experts. I don’t know anything about vaccines but the consistent message from experts is that they take a long time to develop. One of my work colleagues is a top scientist and his view that any claim that a vaccine will be widely available before winter is highly ambitious. Having said that, he says that the cooperation within the scientific community is at a level never seen previously. Scientific research survives on funding, the competition for which exceeds anything you see in sport. For this fight however, all the big names have put competition aside and all the key people are sharing all their findings. Maybe that brings some hope for an early breakthrough. But that’s all it is, hope!
    In relation to how to approach the National League, is there any possibility that the games this year would be banked and combined with those from another full league programme next year? That way, results from this year (positive and negative) would still count.
    Worth considering?

  21. Across the country there must be many senior players contemplating that their inter- county career is probably over without even a last run-out. While gone from inter- county, Galway and Corofin All-Ireland winner Kieran Fitz has called it a day. What a career he had amid difficult days. The Dubs will be gutted that the run to 6 in a row has been delayed maybe derailed hopefully. I cant see any games played in 2020.

  22. What do people think will happen if we never get a vaccine ? “a possibility “ as it’s been said by three different credible sources in the last 48hrs I’ve noticed .

    At the very least the requirement is going to be testing for players , officials etc and behind closed doors . Only an opinion , don’t kill me but I don’t think there’s a hope in hell of club football going ahead , far better chance of resourcing testing for county level . Less pool of players for a start .

  23. Fair play to Austria. German officials are considering reinforcing their restrictions after there were increases of Covid19 post-lifting restrictions. ?

  24. I wonder has anyone noticed the article the Mirror carried yesterday claiming the GAA last month changed the terms and conditions of the Season Tickets to include pandemic as a reason to deny refunds. This is the clause in the T&Cs as of today,

    “In the event of the GAA Season, Allianz National League or Championship being postponed, due to circumstances outside of the control of the GAA (Natural Disaster, Pandemic, etc.) there will be no refunds available for GAA Season Tickets.”

    There is also this clause in the T&Cs which is unusual and extremely anti-consumer.

    “GAA may make changes and update these terms and conditions at any time without further notice to you. It is your sole responsibility to check the terms and conditions periodically, because your continued use of the Season Ticket will mean you accept those changes and updates.”

    I am very disappointed with the GAA for taking this stance when it comes to the season tickets and im amazed it has not received any coverage considering the current climate. Tickets were purchased in good faith based on the number of games in the year, any change to the format or cancellation of games should result in a refund. If this is the way the GAA treats supporters then I will not be renewing next year nor will I be giving the GAA any money in the future.

  25. Mayomad, did you not get the email today,partial refund or discount on 2021,I think that’s fair enough

  26. I got that mail as well today, JP2. I think that deals pretty okay with the issue.

    Oh, by the way, a new podcast episode has just gone online. It features an in-depth interview with Jason Doherty.

  27. I see where the club players are now being used as a scapegoat for the armchair brigade. What is the difference now between County and Club player? So we want players in the last months of the year to satisfy the GAA. Its time the club and players said enough is enough. Until its 100% safe for any type of player to play knowing they or anyone else wont be affected by Covid 19, then and only then should games take place. We have a duty as a human being to look after our needs first . We are pissing against the wind if we think you will get players to risk their and others peoples health for fans who wouldnt give a fuck if the same player never played a game again. The Man that made time made enough of it. 3 months ago it was all go, today its a different story. There will be good days again, and have paitence until then.

  28. I got the email too, but I think they have only done it due to the situation they created for themselves. But it’s welcome and sounds fair

  29. True Grit – I don’t think anyone is saying that club players should be asked to play matches if it isn’t safe to do so. I certainly am not saying this. The point I was making – which John Horan also seems to share if I’m reading what he said correctly – is that the GAA’s priority should be to restart the club action first. Obviously, though, nothing should restart unless and until it’s safe to do so. As things stand, we’ve absolutely no idea when this might be and I’d agree that patience is needed on that score. For sure there should be no rush to restart any contact sports, Gaelic football and hurling included.

  30. According to the government roadmap GAA is set to be allowed return in phase 4 which is provisionally the 20th July.

    Training in smaller groups to be allowed in phase 2 – (with social distancing obviously) – which is 8th June

  31. ”From 20 July, the government says GAA and soccer teams will be allowed resume activities, but only where limitations are placed on the numbers of spectators and where social distancing can be maintained“

    Does this make sense , I can’t get my head around how you social distance on the field of play ?

  32. Social distancing is in relation to spectators

    Sure heavy close contact sports like rugby and feckin wrestling are due to come back in phase 5 – three weeks after GAA.

  33. I still can’t see how you can say it’s ok for thousands upon thousands of men and women in teams of 15 v 15 and then whole panels and management etc to mingle in dressing rooms every Sunday for a couple of hours and then training also whilst telling everyone else you have to social distance .

    I can see the Garda having some job trying to explain to tommo and his twenty mates why he can’t have a house party but the bog ballers are allowed to knock lumps out of each other .

    As for county football , seems to be a lot of players hinting they’d have little interest in behind closed doors games anyway .

  34. GAA Matches will not return on the dates being mentioned, most county managers have said they would require at least 6 weeks training before playing. The players will also have a huge say in when football returns, will they want to risk their health playing this year? as amateur players their main responsibility has to be their health and that of their families. They have to go to work on a Monday morning, pro players can isolate before and after games. I can see players refusing to return and I wouldn’t blame them.

    Regarding the requirement for social distancing, it is impossible to guarantee social distancing at a football game, in or out of the ground. So I can’t see crowds being allowed even if football returns.

  35. Good link there Sean to that IT interview with Cillian de Gascon. It does show the difficulties.

    But, you know, time is a healer here to use a well-worn phrase. We are now having conversations and talking about possibilities. 5 weeks ago, we were bunkering down. By mid-June we’ll know a lot more and have seen how others are faring out. The key question is when is it safe to go thundering into one another in earnest? Interesting that he seemed to be positive about cricket. It’s not a contact sport as such, but it’s close enough in ways, and there are two teams, a lot of interaction if not actual contact, dressing rooms, showers and so on.

    Let’s wait.

  36. I’d just love for some expert to come out and say look we will most likely be back to a no risk packed croker in 2021 .

    It’s the no light at the end of the tunnel that depresses me the talk of “the new normal “ as if we will never have packed stadia again . But look it’s irrelevant to families grieving around the country and globe and I have an awful bad feeling it will have a devastating impact on developing countries and third world . I’m no expert but you’d imagine their health systems are very poor and will struggle greatly to cope .

    We do have a lot to be greatful for , I mean look at that far right nutter in Brazil or that squatter in the White House , would not fancy them as leaders in this situation.

  37. Ahh tis a term I’ve heard used here in the capital by those who would not be too fond of the GAA I suppose .

  38. I can’t see any inter county football happening this year at all. There won’t be a vaccine or a viral treatment before August and it will be impossible to monitor social distancing among the spectators. Just imagine the carnage, Mayo playing away from home will bring 10,000 to 15,000 people with them, travelling hundreds of miles in packed cars and buses – and that is even before you get inside the ground. Imagine the social distancing in Applegreen or Supermacs or wherever on the way home!! Good luck with that.

    I believe the GAA should just call it now. The 2020 inter-county season, at all ages and grades, hurling, football, camoige and ladies football, is cancelled. No league winners, no relegation, no provincials or back doors.
    Give August, September and October to the clubs, run off the club league competition and then straight in to the club championship. No league semi-finals or anything like that, just whoever is top of the league at the end is the league winner. Top two promoted, bottom two relegated – no playoffs.
    For the championship it would be a straight “knock-out” with extra time to ensure that games are decided on the day. Clubs would be travelling much smaller distances, max of 90 miles?? and attendances would obviously be much smaller and easier to handle. 12 weekends, with a game every weekend, would be plenty of time to run it all off in.

  39. Pebblesmeller, while I would love to see the club’s given whatever time that’s left to play, I can’t see how it will happen without a vaccine or at least a rigourous testing programme which is virtually impossible to implement at club level for amateur players. The GAA have today said intercounty won’t happen before OCTOBER. Club players and indeed spectators need to think of their health and livelihoods. Players need to go to work on a Monday morning, playing football every weekend would jeopardise that

  40. Less than 5% of all Coronavirus deaths are people under the age of 55.Why not lift all restrictions for all people under this age that do not have any underlying illnesses or live with people over 70 or people who have illness, Introduce a mandatory wearing of masks and gloves in all social settings.This is the only way for our economy to get back to any normality.

  41. @Chris Kelly, …In my opinion the wearing of Mask’s should be compulsory for shopping, public transport etc…If you look at the Countries in Asia close to where the first outbreak of the Virus happened in China, where the wearing of Mask’s in public has been the norm for years… Their problem with Covid 19 is just a tiny fraction of ours…Eg, Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, South Korea… Surely the widespread wearing of Mask’s has had something to do with their impressive figures in comparison to ourselves..The wearing of mask’s on public transport and shopping is mandatory in many European countries with much better stats as regards the Virus than ourselves,… Can’t understand why the Government is waiting, as the evidence mounts it’s going to be done in any case..But why wait?

  42. @Pebblesmellar I don’t know what Mayo club football you are following. There is never any league semi finals or play offs. It’s always top team are champions. 2nd place promoted. Bottom 2 relegated. Also they are 12 teams in each divisions of the league. So that’s 11 games. Then you have your championship. Last 16 game, quarter final, semi final and final. When you add that up that’s 15 weekends of football. You said 12 weekends would be loads of time to run it off. You will have to put on your thinking cap again I’m thinking.

  43. @Turfman, you are correct. I should have specified as I was demonstrating how ladies football could be completed. That’s where I am mostly involved as coach and manager.

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