Light at the end of the tunnel


Finally, more than three months on from when the first Covid-19 case was confirmed in this country, the prospect of some semblance of normality returning to our lives seems to be coming into view.

In tandem with the Government’s Phase 2 reopening announcement today the GAA unveiled its plans for a return to action. Full details of the GAA’s proposals, which is a joint plan agreed with the LGFA and the Camogie Association, are here.

A quick perusal of the plan quickly confirms that the return to action isn’t just a case of rocking up and throwing the ball in. All manner of protocols and procedures have to be rolled out in advance and, having done a bit of volunteering with the GAA in my time, I can only shudder at the burden all of this will impose on volunteers as they prepare their clubs and counties to be able to get back out safely onto the field of play.

As was well trailed in advance, it’s club action that’ll resume first, with club competitions getting going on 31st July at both adult and juvenile level. Collective training at inter-county level is set to resume on 14th September, with competitive football and hurling action getting going on 17th October.

The GAA also announced today that it will publish a full revised calendar of inter-county fixtures for the remainder of the year on 29th June. Interestingly, the Association hasn’t yet given up the ghost on concluding this year’s National Leagues and so we’ll have to wait until the end of the month to find what what the story is there.

So, the prospect of once again seeing on-field action – at both club and county levels – is finally back on the table. Significant issues remain to be addressed, in particular what arrangements will be made for spectators, assuming the current physical distancing strictures remain in place. And, of course, the reopening plans are conditional on what happens with the virus, which could yet come roaring back strongly later in the year.

For now, though, it’s good – finally – to be able to think about the future in a positive way and to start looking ahead to that happy day when we get to see some ball kicked again. In that regard, it does – at last – feel like there’s some light at the end of the tunnel.

29 thoughts on “Light at the end of the tunnel

  1. Yes; as you refer to all the protocols-15 pages of red tape certainly takes the fun out of any wins / titles any team will “earn”. Yes-it’s a big serious issue but how can volunteers be taking a list of who’s at a session or a game and take temperatures…as a fellow secretary said “We all love GAA but what was so wrong with giving up on 2020”?

  2. This is great news altogether. Delighted the GAA showed leadership throughout the lockdown and among the first to show the way out. Roll on October ???

  3. “We all love GAA but what was so wrong with giving up on 2020”

    Well for a start returning to play will do absolute wonders for people’s mental health – both players and followers, it will keep younger people entertained and out of the house on these extremely long days, will be a diversion for teenagers and keep them off the streets and away from drinks/drugs, it will give all players a purpose, a semblance of normality to their lives, something to dream about and a structure in these bizarre times, will reunite people with their friends, there are also many people employed directly and indirectly from the GAA, their livelihoods have been at stake and this is heartwarming news for them, it will also be a lift to the economy on matchdays and bring communities together

    That would be just a few reasons why it makes sense to bring it back (while implementing plenty of sensible protocols to ensure everyone’s health remains paramount) than to shelve it altogether simply down to a few minor inconveniences

    The only issue I have with it is why can’t players return training earlier? That said there’s nothing stopping a few guys meeting up in a local park from Monday and in any case it has already been mooted that June 29th return date will likely be brought forward (and in fairness there is some planning to do before pitches can officially open so they can’t just open them straight away monday)

  4. Ciaran, I think a life threatening virus is more than a “minor inconvenience”, I sure the families of those who have died wouldnt agree with you.

    While it is positive that there may be a possibility or a return to play this year I do have reservations about how it can be achieved. As you have mentioned WJ, I think it’s really unfair to expect volunteers to police games to ensure all protocols as adhered to, it doesn’t sit well that there seems to be the assumption that volunteers will automatically do this.

    Most comments I read about this plan are from the spectators point of view where it is assumed all players are raring to get back to action, a large percentage may well be but I’m sure there is also a large number who are fearful of going back to playing. The GAA have rightly said it is on an opt in opt out basis but in reality will pressure from within and outside be put on players to play, I’d like to think not but that would be naive. The CPA and GPA will have a big say on when games actually happen if at all. I haven’t seen much detail on testing for players when they return to training, clubs cannot afford to carry out the testing required and the state shouldn’t be expected to provide testing for recreational activities.

    On the issue of attending games, while there is a requirement to maintain social distancing then it is not practical to allow spectators, even if attendance was permitted people will really have to think about it, personally I have no intention of attending any games this year, health is way more important than watching a football game.

  5. Well WJ, you have a great knack of finding the perfect picture. A really positive day yesterday and hopefully we all move forward with caution out of respect for everyone else’s health and in memory of all those poor people who lost their lives as a result of this virus. June 29th is plenty soon to put our GAA feet forward – it gives everyone a chance to adjust to the massive reactivation in homes, communities and business over the next 3 weeks. We so very often criticise the top brass of the GAA but I think we should acknowledge and praise their approach over the last 3 months. They have fronted an extraordinary organisation and preserved its attentive and caring image within town and village; most particularly they showed an ability to deploy their own thinking and mindset. And it has to be said that throughout this time John Horan has showed all the hallmarks of what it takes to be entrusted with the very highest office, well done.

  6. I agree with Mayo Roosterman I think starting an inter county championship in Mid October is a bit daft it will be after all the middle of winter or close to it. Football played at championship pace on saturated windswept pitches will lead to lots of injuries I think the sensible thing would have been to wait until January and resume the Fbd league etc with the national league in February. Still tho if Mayo lift the Sam Maguire Christmas week I’ll have no complaints

  7. Will be interesting to see how mayo gaa use the 11 week window for club. I’d guess they will aim to play out the club championship in its existing format.

    My preference would be to use it as a opportunity to think outside the box and maximise the amount of games across those 11 weeks. Possibly a league format which gives teams loads of games and let’s players enjoy the shortened season. Will also allow teams to experiment and develop before hopefully a full season next year. A championship format could mean a three week season for some teams which isn’t really beneficial for the game.

    Will have to wait and see but it will be great to have some live sport back in whatever format.

  8. We are a bit afraid here in Ireland, the so called experts are sitting back and looking at to other European Countries and how they have dealt with Covid19, no such thing as taking a bit of a chance, showing the way forward.
    If there is to be championship in October, as I wrote on this blog 2 months ago, then it should be Div 1 teams only, straight knock out.
    Let’s face it, I think we all have a good idea of the 2020 winners.

  9. Mayomad the minor inconveniences I refer to are related to temperature checks and recording everyone turning up to training sessions not the virus itself, but much appreciated for putting such words in my mouth

  10. No worries Mayomad, it can be easy to misinterpret written text.

    I would never ever attempt to trivialise or dismiss in any way a matter as serious as the current Covid pandemic, and I’m of the belief any return to action must only occur when completely safe to do so, public health must come first

    But thank God we are currently ( I emphasise ‘currently’ as we must always tread carefully with this virus) at a stage where we can look ahead to some semblance of normality coming back into our lives and please God numbers continue to dwindle and we eradicate this blasted thing as much as we can until some treatments come to light

  11. IF inter county matches are not going to resume until 17 october ,I think it is as well to fold up the tent and start again in 2021.ITS pure daft and silly to play championship in the winter with mucky pitches ,evenings getting dark early,and bad weather.The gaa can play the club championships to a finish before christmas and inter county can start again in the new year.It would not be fair on the players travelling to training or matches in the depths of winter.

  12. Agree with Jimbo. Cant see there been a big appetite for inter county championship in the middle of winter. Players back in college returning to counties in mid week for training with dark wet nights. Games been played on heavy pitches in wet miserable weather. Supporters trying to get to games across the country with short daylight hours to get home safely.
    If the gaa can get a decent club campaign in 2020 – they should leave it at that. What about player welfare? Are they expecting inter county players to start in July with their club – move to intercounty then in October and play through the winter – start again then next spring with league and into championship with no break?? Professional players wouldn’t be asked to do this.

  13. I really think tjey should concentrate on club and forget about intercounty for 2020.
    I was all up for a shortened inter county championship like old school straight knock or 32 team open draw,that was if we could have started in June or July.
    Starting in late October to finish at christmas or even into the new year…..I mean whats the point?
    They should get the club game up and running and let them have their inter county players available for once.Hopefully if we can keep the virus under control through the rest of the year then January wont be long coming around.

  14. Personally don’t think there will be an Inter County Championship this year despite what the GAA think / plan. There will be a club one during the Summer which is great, however I’m not sure that all clubs and players will buy into the large amounts of new procedures and paperwork that will be in place, not to mention the health risks still out there, this virus hasn’t gone away despite what some think. It’s hard enough for clubs to get people to play and get involved with coaching and admin, let alone to burden them with extra red tape at every training session and game. For example, say if there was a case in a club and the paperwork hadn’t been done, the fall out and blame game would be endless. Not all clubs are run like army units, quite the opposite in fact.

    Regarding the Inter County scene, the 17th of October is right at the start of the flu season. There will be a lot of anxiety about contracting Covid and seasonal flu this year in the winter months, some experts say that there will be a new peak of Covid in the final quarter of this year, something that we as a population must try and avoid if at all possible. Playing County games at the highest risk point of the flu season is madness in my view, I can’t see players and the GPA wanting to play games on waterlogged pitches in November, player welfare must come first. Also, if a player tests positive, that’s the whole squad having to go into isolation for 14 days, that could mean the end for their championship hopes.

    Stay safe all, stay apart and look out for others. Football will return again, but it shouldn’t until it’s safe to do so.

  15. Fully agree Way out West 17 of October is just rubbish talking. Dublin could get AIG and Croker to put the Dublin squad in one of those empty hotels for 12 weeks no problem. Kerry night be able to swing something similar with their sponsorship. That’s about it as far as I can see in football. Hurling might have a couple of well backed teams also. How can most counties afford the expense without having incomes. The ban of mass gatherings cannot be lifted in winter. “It just won’t work Ted.” ? 65 Football days before Christmas.

  16. We played in an all Ireland in December before. 1916. Attendance was 3000. Could history repeat? Hopefully we’d win this time.

  17. So much depends on the Science, what will happen in Ireland and the World with Covid 19?… Maybe, new Treatment’s, Maybe a Vacine, Maybe Ireland will do really well from here on as regards Covid 19.. But our neighbouring Countries need to do very well also.. Maybe the Virus will mutate into something less harmful (Like happened with the Spanish Flu 100 year’s ago) , Maybe the opposite will happen…. Maybe we will find a quicker and simple test for the Virus, and for the Antibodies, for those who had already contacted the disease and recovered, but never knew that they had it in the first place… That’s allot of Maybe’s!..Who knows, it’s absolutely impossible to know… For me, the idea of Inter County Championship Football in the Winter is far from appealing… It’s good to think that Club Footballer can be played…. For me it’s concievable that the Football League can be completed… Some Countries have already practically eliminated the Virus, with no new case’s and death’s from Covid 19 for week’s already, like Taiwan, Iceland and New Zealand, but then again the numbers never got high in those Countries at all, All Islands..

  18. I think all the planning for inter-county might be reviewed when the state of finances in the Co Boards is looked at. So far this year, mortgages on venues continued to be paid and other expenses kept taking money out. Without any income stream other than sponsorship, many Co Boards will be in dire financial straits by September and will not be able to fund the preparation of a senior county team.

  19. Many clubs are in dire financial crisis. Mayo county board want them levees paid by all clubs this year despite no or little income…it’s a dire situation facing Mayo clubs.

  20. I am not involved in administration in any club but surely the following items should not be paid for 2020 and if they were paid before the Covid19 outbreak all monies should be returned to clubs and members OR carried over to cover some of 2021.
    1, All County Board Levies, I am led to believe that could be as much as 5 to 10k for clubs, depending on their size.
    2, All membership to paid up members, in Dublin this is approx 400k in the bigger clubs.
    3, Insurance, this would be paid by clubs on a monthly basis, surely for half March and all the months after up to the time of return to the clubs re-opening, there would be little or no Insurance costs, only for the clubhouse and grounds.
    4, There are surely no running costs incurred by County Boards and clubs, ie heating, Electricity, Gas, TV and broadband.
    5, Has any County Board Cairde membership fees been returned ?
    Insurance Companies are currently giving us a reduction, for Health and Motor Insurance.

  21. Mayo88 – I have to pull you up, yet again. Please refrain from posting stuff like that contained at the end of your comment. It has no place here. You really are one step from moderation now.

  22. Uachtarán Cumann Luthchleas Gael John Horan has said we might possibly see crowds of 21 k at Croke park this year or 42k if social distancing was reduced to 1m .

    Seems very optimistic but would be great to see some crowds back at games later in the year .

  23. I think the residents around Jones Road would have alot to say around 21k or 42k tracing outside their doorsteps while COVID still out there. I can’t see in any shape or form that gatherings of that size will be allowed this calendar year.

  24. Why will there be a need for supporters in Croke Park to social distance and not players. Are the players going to be tested for the virus in the lead up to games.
    The situation with the virus is changing week by week – all good at the moment.
    By October the situation could be changed again and we could be all back to square one.

  25. We are over the worst with covid 19. At some stage the scaremongering had to stop. This inevitable second wave that has yet to be proven will more than likely never happen. RIP to the 1600 who lost their lives but in a population of nearly 5 million people, we have fared out quite well. If things dont get back to a form of normality soon, then the economy will never recover. This virus is with us for the foreseeable future and if people want to wait for a vaccine until they emerge into the outside world, then that’s up to them. But to get a vaccine trialled, tested and put into mass production for worldwide use, then realistically that could be 2+ years away. I’m delighted to see the GAA put a plan in place and if numbers keep declining at the rate they are at the moment, then we could see the dates for the start of the season brought forward again. By September we could be looking at a very different scenario that we are at the minute.

  26. The biggest battle to be fought here is the battle between club and county manager. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. There is no way that county managers are going to idly stand by until September.

    Looking at the bigger picture, the football season is far too long anyway and the money involved is ridiculous. The problem being that to get and remain competitive you have to commit to a 3 year phase and approx €4 million if you are to be anywhere near winning anything. This is all wrong and it is also one of the greatest faults of the championship. The gap between games is way too long (a month to 5 weeks in some cases) and there is no way that a competition that requires you to win 6 or 7 games to get to the final should take over 5 months!
    To me, that is what makes the league so appealing, you have a game every week to two weeks and it is relatively competitive. The demand on inter county players is huge and I’d imagine that there are one or two around the country that didn’t mind the extra few months off.
    Anyway, we are where we are and we all deserve credit for how we handled it. Hold the candle steady for another 3 or 4 weeks and we should be OK.

  27. Thank the lord!!! Football is back, i would bite your arm off to get to an FBD game at this stage :-p

  28. For what its worth i think the GAA as a whole handled themsleves brilliantly throughout the covid crisis,
    Made me proud as a gael to see the GAA stadiums throw their doors open for testing as early as March, seems to be a favourite national pastime whinging about ‘the gah’, indeed i see there are still people pissing and moaning about the return to pplay plan, i was a proud gael the last few months – my club every club around me doing help the elderly campaigns or charity events was great to see too

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