Inter-county prospects back on knife-edge

Photo: The 42 (James Crombie/Inpho)

As the days tick down to the planned resumption of inter-county action – it’s just eleven days now until we’re supposed to be facing Galway in the National League at Tuam (throw-on on the 18th is set for 2pm) – so the number of daily Covid-19 infections increases remorselessly. This is no game but if it’s viewed as a contest then it’s becoming ever more obvious which side is likely to prevail.

Indeed, had the Government gone with NPHET’s weekend advice then, with Level 5 restrictions in place, the jig would already be up. While that hasn’t happened, it’s already looking like a decision that’s been postponed and that, sooner or later, the games will have to stop.

But that probably won’t happen inside the next few weeks and so the match in Tuam is still more likely than not to go ahead. If it does, of course, it’ll be played behind closed doors and TG4 will be broadcasting it live.

In the event that the Championship does go ahead and is played to its conclusion, we’ll all be tuning in on TV and online to follow the action. RTÉ, TG4 and Sky are all going to be showing several matches live but, as was the case for club Championship games, some matches will also be streamed live.

Like remote working and the demise of physical money, streaming of GAA matches is set to be one of the permanent outcomes of this pandemic era. An accompanying radical reappraisal of the rights to broadcast and stream inter-county games live could well end up being added to that list too.

As this piece by John Fogarty in the Irish Examiner confirms, the GAA plans to use the streaming platform GAA Go – which it developed in partnership with RTÉ and which up until now has only been available to those based outside Ireland and the UK – to show a number of National League games. You’d have to imagine that they’ll do the same for the Championship.

Sky Sports, meanwhile, have announced that the 14 Championship matches they plan to show will be made available on a non-subscription basis on their Sky Sports Mix channel. Sky estimate that this move will make the games available to around 900,000 households via the Sky and Virgin Media platforms.

So the countdown to the start of the inter-county action continues, albeit in an increasingly unreal environment. The announcement today that several members of the Fermanagh playing panel have tested positive for Covid doesn’t augur well for how the inter-county season might go.

For now, though, it’s still all systems go, though that could obviously change. At this stage, to be honest, it would be a surprise if it didn’t.

43 thoughts on “Inter-county prospects back on knife-edge

  1. It would be grateful to have football to look forward to on Tv to brighten up the winter and a Mayo V Galway clash anytime is something to look forward to but with 35 new cases in Galway yesterday and the North of Ireland swamped with new cases as well I think the Safest thing to do is scrap the league for this year. You’d have some chance with the provincial championships but with cases on the rise all the time it really is on a knife edge.

  2. It is very hard to predict what is going to happen with the championship this year.I feel it could possibly start but it could be pulled half way through. We are on the verge of going to level 5 cases are rising and level 3 does not seem to be working in Donegal or Dublin. With the situation getting worse in the north I think they will have no option but to go to level 5.I would love to see a championship evenings are getting shorter and with very little to do at the present it would be a great boost to see Gaelic games on our screens. Let’s hope next two to three weeks we will see a reduction with cases all over Ireland

  3. I really cant see Intercounty going ahead and IMO the GAA needs to make a decision soon to call a halt. Cases are rising rapidly, the North is in serious trouble and I can see them stopping all matches very soon. Even if they do manage to resume playing matches its looking highly unlikely they will manage to complete a championship without teams testing positive, increased restrictions etc.

    What testing systems do the GAA have in place for the upcoming games? will players be tested following games and get quick turnaround of results? Intercounty is played at an elite level but the players are amateur and need to go to work on Monday morning unlike soccer or rugby who can isolate following a game. We are expecting players to interact with other players from all parts of the country then go directly into a working environment (a large portion of players are teachers, civil servants etc), its actually insane what’s being planned, I cant believe the GPA or players themselves aren’t questioning this.

    Football is a great distraction but ultimately unimportant particularly in the current climate. We need to concentrate on keeping people safe, in work and the schools open otherwise the country will collapse economically. There is no place for football matches right now, the GAA need to realise this and call a halt.

  4. Seems extremely likely that tighter restrictions are coming so that may put an end to all organised sporting activity. There have been just too many hints and statements from health officials and government and it seems like a classic case of kite flying and preparing us. Cant then see a championship being played this year unfortunately.

  5. I agree with all you posted there Mayomad. Not a word re players being tested – were the Mayo players tested after that challenge game?? The GAA need to call it all off now. Players have families and jobs and live among us. Why put so many at risk. Still sickened that Jason got injured in training.

  6. I think the Govt desperately want the championship to go ahead – somewhat akin to the schools reopening. No spectators may well be the price to be paid for that.

    That Sky decision is great. As a Virgin customer I’ll be able to see all that on Sky Sports Mix.

  7. I see the official site is confirming the our minor game against Sligo for October 29th, also seen on another site that one parent or guardian can attend games due to players being minors also that challenge games can be played, so looks like the powers that be are going ahead with their plans, well at until further notice.

  8. The Irish Examiner is reporting (here) that there’s a GAA Management Committee meeting with County Board Chairs this evening and the speculation is that the upcoming League games could be scrapped. A sensible move if this is what’s decided.

  9. Saw that Mayomessi re U17 game on 29.10.20 – are U17s an “elite” sport now? I’m so confused at this stage re the word “elite” for amateur players.

  10. I’m not sure the championship would be a distraction for me right now. Too many people are getting sick and it’s spreading exponentially. The Fermanagh county squad has a number of confirmed cases and has ceased all training etc.

    At this stage I’m not convinced a condensed competition is worth the risk? I’m also not sure how many players actually want to play the competition under these circumstances?

    I’m leaning more and more towards the opinion that it might be best at this stage that we pull the plug for the rest of the year.

  11. They have to call it all off I think. Nothing more important than life itself. We all love our football, but if the stopping of this virus requires lockdown and a ban on all sport on this Island, then bring it on. This year is goosed anyway, so lets hopefully start again in 2021.

  12. I do think the Government made the correct decision on Monday. However i think non essential events like the league and championship should be canceled and restart with the league in March and run it off quickly.
    We need to take necessary risk but avoid the unnecessary

  13. I’m not sure that the Government want any Championship to go ahead, more like an excuse by the Gaa to get handy Revenue / compensation payments, and to add to their development lands.

  14. I heard Micheál Martin, the first interview Claire Byrne did, and he was passionate on the question. Leo V. was also v. strong on some other radio show around that time. Govt would get some kudos from it; it would be a welcome distraction and so on. I think they see it as somewhat similar to the schools. However the NI situation is the really worrying one. Could they exclude Ulster teams?

  15. Well well ALL league games to go ahead as scheduled reported now on RTE. How does that work with cases so high??? All for the money.

  16. Given the stark warning at the weekend just gone I think it is a bad decision to try to complete the league and championship in November and December. Great point made by Mayomad these guys are amateurs even if the GAA is a professional organisation. Little concern for players welfare, they will have to return home to vulnerable family members after close physical contact with others from another county. Imagine the damage that “long covid 19” could cause to your star footballers in the coming year. And all this behind closed doors. Who stands to benefit from this craze. The tax payers coughing up the cash and the frenzy around getting your share by people who are not at an increased risk. An AI football tournament similar to the Centenary Cup but this one involves handing Sam back to Dublin. Is won’t to anything for my mental health.

  17. Dr. Holohan said he is deeply concerned at the spread of covid yet Croke Park are pushing on with league and championship – utter madness. The Fermanagh/Clare game is going ahead even though the Fermanagh team are only coming out of self isolation that morning. I just don”t know anymore when it comes to Croke Park….

  18. Yeah while they’ll probably finish out the leagues, a completed championship before Christmas is a forlorn hope at this stage. That said – in line with what some are saying above – there does appear to be a serious push towards playing it off, and at this stage i could honestly see a level 5 of sorts implemented but exceptions – at first – actually made for ‘top level sport’ which might include intercounty.

    I dunno tho… to be honest i’ve very little appetite for championship anyway. The country is once more in the thick of a very precarious situation. I think its great that most of the club championships managed to (mostly) get played off this year, and at this stage the GAA is probably best off counting its blessings in that regard and move towards planning for 2021.

    Ok fair enough, without spectators – and perhaps with regular testing for players – matches will theoretically be lower risk as a whole in terms of the wider scheme of things, but even the optics of playing a championship in the middle of this latest surge just seems a bit off imo

    Not to mention the inevitable forfeiting of games and absence of players that will arise

    Its going to be a long winter though ( I wouldn’t give the pubs or restaurants a hope of opening above 15 outdoors again in 2020 – so most public socialising is essentially off the table) so maybe it might help to give the country a bit of a pick up at the weekends and some escapism when it does click into gear – we’ll see what happens i guess.

    Its all very up in the air overall though – to be honest at this stage i wouldn’t totally write off temporary full scale school closures at some stage this side of Christmas, and if that happens its straight away goodbye championship. Even the premier league is looking more precarious by the week at present

  19. While it’s going ahead the two remaining NFL games anyway. Ref for the Galway game will on the 18th will be Maurice Deegan.

  20. @Tuamstar
    Presumably the 19m the government are stumping up?
    I think it’s inevitable the league will be finished out,the powers that be seem determined to do it.
    If things keep deteriorating I wouldnt agree with Tyrone (NI currently one of the worset hotspots in Europe) coming to Mayo (lowest incidence rate in Ireland) I think it’s madness.
    I also don’t think there should be a championship. Where’s the appetites for it coming from? certainly I know players and supporters who dont want it.

  21. Indo is reporting that the midterm set to be extended this year (there was already substantial rumours of this – it was always inevitable to be honest)

    Reading between the lines, I’d imagine this may well be with a view to implementing a ‘circuit breaker’ level 5 scenario throughout the country for 2/3 weeks during that time

    Whether top level sport is given an exception though remains to be seen

  22. Tuamstar – the Millions in government funding (ie taxpayers money) to ensure the championship goes ahead (announced on 25.09.20). Sky/RTE contracts too. There is a rise in the numbers and in younger people getting the virus. What is the point in forcing the games to go ahead at this time?

  23. Nobody is forcing anything. If the country goes to level 5, the games won’t go ahead.
    If there’s an outbreak in a squad, they will have to play without those players, or if outbreak is widespread, forfeit the game.
    Other than that, the gamesgo ahead, without spectators. No major risk.

  24. At what stage are the GPA going to step in and call a halt on player welfare grounds. There is a big risk. Take the Mayo panel who assemble this weekend for probably 2 trainings. Between players and support people you have 40 people coming together from all parts of the country – college and work in Dublin, college in Galway, Limerick etc. How many people have these 40 been in contact over the last 5-6 days. Testing these players today Friday does not mean they haven’t picked up the virus in last few days.
    Professional rugby is totally different – these players can train and then go home to their families without having to go to work/college etc.
    The 15 league games next weekend will have county teams travelling all over the country. For example Kerry travel away to Monaghan next weekend and at home to Donegal the following weekend. This means there will be over night stays for teams as well.

  25. Tubberman, I disagree with you there, there is a major risk involved with playing these games. The GAA are NOT testing full squads prior to games, from what I can find, they are planning on LIMITED testing 3 or 4 days leading up to a game IF there was a positive test in a squad. This approach is totally inadequate as it doesn’t account for asymptomatic carriers . Amateur players can not isolate in the days before a game or after, they will be in the community at work/college etc. There is a potential for catching and spreading COVID by playing these games therefore the GAA needs to wise up and cancel the remainder of the season. The numbers coming out of the North makes a lockdown there inevitable, an All Ireland will not go ahead without Ulster.

  26. 1000s of players have been training and playing club matches for the last 3 months all over the country with no testing whatsoever. Intercounty teams have been back 4 weeks at this stage. In a month’s time over half the counties will be knocked out of the championship and finished for the year.

    So long as the government allow it, intercounty should continue. Players are free to step away if there’s a vulnerable person in their household.

  27. @Mayomad, I’m in total agreement with you.. Besides with the numbers increasing, and South of the border as well, the league or championship is meaningless…in my opinion.

  28. Oh Dear, Please let the League at least be finished for this year.

    I am nearly sure the players would be delighted too. In Division 1 Galway have a right to try and win the League. Mayo have the right to try and avoid relegation. Why wait for some indeterminate date if you can play now.

    If the Championship goes ahead then great. It would be easier to leave the Semi and Final for a safer time, if the situation deteriorates. Everyone will know where they stand this year.

    Play when you can.

    The players are unlikely to be careless about passing on the virus

  29. Agree with Tubberman. I think it’s fair to say the Gaa are and have been taken a massive hit financially since March but even with this 19 million, no fans in stadium I believe as long as the players are not at a risk it should go ahead. Level 5 will change this but if Mayo were willing to play Donegal last weekend in a challenge with the covid situation in Donegal, they must be happy that their players are not at risk. For the mentl health of all sports fans I hope the games go ahead..

  30. Can anyone tell me where to find the free Sky Sports Mix. Can find Sky News on freesat but not a trace of Sports Mix

  31. Sky sports mix comes with virgin media tv or the basic sky tv package. It doesn’t come with Freesat I don’t think.

    I’ll be taking out a month’s subscription to sky sports on NOW tv. It’s 19.50 for the month and that will cover any championship games sky have.

  32. Footage of Jim McGuinness taking Galway training session in Pearse Stadium this morning. Joyce’s philosophy didn’t last too long, gone back to the blanket

  33. Or perhaps Joyce is using his football brain and also utilising his friendship with jim to strengthen some tactical areas better suited to jmcg. Galway heading in the right direction and will most likely land Sam maguire under Joyce .

    Next Sunday should mean a lot more to us than them though . Joyce might field a second string .

  34. Galway have a long way to go to get to Dublin, kerry standard. An early run in the league can be very deceptive.

  35. Dublin run coming to an end imo , Kerry yes , something very special happening down there since their multiple minor winning teams . The calibre of footballer like Sean o se and Clifford , only Kerry can produce the likes but again imho Galway will be the nearest to them . Does nobody else get that feel of we’re heading for a Galway v Kerry era ? So I totally disagree with the narrative Galway are a long way off Dublin/Kerry . Galway have learned a lot off our bucks these last few years , Joyce seen that and thinks he can bring more to that and bring Galway to properly compete .

  36. I’m not convinced by Joyce at Galway or will he bring them any further than Walsh did (AI semi final) but if he gets experienced heads into his management like McGuinness it should certainly improve their chances.

    As for kerry unless they improve defensively they won’t be winning Sam this year or next year.

  37. Kerry aint as great as ye think. They are struggling at midfield and reliant on Moran again with the others making little impact to date. Dubs fans feel they can just continue on without McCaffrey et al and who would back against them. Galway will continue to improve under Joyce and plenty of young players to choose from I expect us to reach an AI in next few years but winning it is another thing. Mayo are not finished but its hard to see where improvement will come from but im say Horan would settle for now for an injury free squad. Meanwhile the Rossies are waiting for ye and who would put it past them doing Galway and Mayo.

  38. Still think jury is out on Kerry, defensively very suspect, Galway ripped them apart at times in the League down in Tralee, we bullied them in second half in Castlebar, where we should have got at least a draw.
    I think people forget Dublin played with 14 men for the guts of 50 mins in AIF last year Kerry still couldn’t take them and were well beaten in replay.
    Nothing between Kerry, Donegal, Tyrone, Mayo & Galway. In spite of COVID it’s still Dublin’s to lose

  39. Davitt51 – McGuinness took one training session with them. One. They’re friends since college in Tralee in the late 90s. That’s it.
    And I agree Jr – we have a long long way to go to get to Dublin or Kerry standards. Defensively in particular we are lacking quality individuals. League results can indeed be deceptive. We were lucky to beat both Monaghan at home and Donegal away and arguably Meath away also. Tyrone at home is the one day where we really clicked but that scoreline was distorted by 2 sending offs for Tyrone. We would have won anyway but the scoreboard is deceptive.
    Saying that I think we were the better team in Tralee & unlucky to lose that one.
    It’s a whole new season now anyway regardless.
    Sunday will be interesting.

  40. I agree with Sean Burke. Galway are going to be serious contenders over the next 6 to 7 seasons. Bar Kerry, they have more underage talent coming through the ranks.

    We really could do with a big win at u17 or u20 in the next year or two. Granted u17 is so far off senior now but winning sets a precedent. U20 though is and should be a far more accurate barometer of where a county is at. I accept in some circumstances, players at 19/20,still underage, arent eligible to play if playing senior too.

    Who Mayo appoint now for u20 job is very important. It’s a hugely important position. Our last 2 seasons have been very disappointing so hopefully whoever comes in can gel any talent emerging. There was a lot of talk of players on this blog over the last 2 seasons at u20 level. The vast majority failed to deliver. Is that because they were overhyped? Or was it down to management? Or was it cos Galway were far better? Galway deserved victory last year but there Mayo had just as good a bunch this year. The only consolation was Towey’s performance against Galway. He showed a bit of class, was the standout forward that day on the pitch but then the year before in Tuam he, and the rest of the team, looked like they’d never played the game!

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