Growing fears GAA leagues won’t be completed

Growing fears GAA leagues won’t be completed

By John Fogarty and Eoghan Cormican

The GAA will delay, until next week, making a decision on extending the suspension of Gaelic Games activity beyond March 29.

However, there is a growing belief the 2020 Allianz Leagues will not be completed as a result of the coronavirus crisis.

So as to classify teams for the purposes of the newly established Tailteann Cup from the finishing positions in Division 2 and 3, there remains a determination to finish the competition ahead of the Championship.

The likelihood is that would require most of the outstanding 16 round games across the two divisions to be played.

However, the chances appear remote of staging the remaining 47 Allianz League matches ahead of a decimated club programme and what was originally planned to be a 51-game Sam Maguire Cup, a 15-game Tailteann Cup, and a 29-game Liam MacCarthy Cup, as well as the lower level hurling inter-county competitions.

Although GAA director general Tom Ryan did not inform county chairs in a teleconference yesterday of the organisation’s contingency plans for national fixtures, it is expected that the GAA will next week announce that their precautionary suspension will go beyond Sunday week.

At that point, a decision could be made on what competitions are prioritised, restructured, or abandoned. Three weekends will have been lost by March 29 and some counties have already indicated they would require a lead-in time of two to three weeks to be ready for action again.

Were the league to fall by the wayside, the Tailteann Cup would almost certainly have to be postponed by a year. Plans to discuss a new structure for the football championship at a Special Congress in September might also be put on hold, although an agreement on a new format will be needed for 2021.

Croke Park have not yet discussed their options with sponsors Allianz, with whom they recently signed a new five-year extension. It has been the policy of the long-standing backers of the competition not to interfere in the running of it and sources indicate they would understand if the 2020 version was to be deemed null and void rather than recommencing it in the autumn following the Championship.

At yesterday’s convening, Ryan is believed to have expanded on the Association’s statements made over the past eight days in relation to the cessation until March 29 and the decision to call off the New York-Galway Connacht SFC opener on May 3.

He also reiterated that the GAA are continuing to work closely with the HSE.

Earlier, it had been announced both Páirc Uí Chaoimh and the LIT Gaelic Grounds will be used as drive-thru test facilities following on from UPMC Nowlan Park and Croke Park.

Munster Council chairman Liam Lenihan does not envisage any GAA activity until June at the earliest.

The Limerick native made the claim after the province’s minor football championship start date was moved from April 8 to 22.

The opening round in Phase 1 of the Munster MFC was due to throw-in with Tipperary hosting Clare and Waterford travelling to Limerick, but these games have been put back two weeks. Rounds 2 and 3, scheduled for April 15 and 22, have also been put back a fortnight.

Despite the decision to postpone games by two weeks, rather than indefinitely, one which will be further reviewed over the coming days and weeks, Lenihan believes no GAA games will be played for a couple of months.

He accepts the format of the Munster minor football championship will have to be restructured when the 2020 season recommences as “there’s no way you could play round-robin at this stage”.

Lenihan continued:

We are in unprecedented times. There will be a conference call with Croke Park at the end of this month which will involve all counties, provincial councils, and overseas units. I suppose we will all have a better idea after that.

“I can’t see any games being played in April, I don’t even know if they will be played in May. That’s just my opinion. There will have to be a restructuring.

"There is no way you could play round-robin at this stage. We have to meet the counties and they have to be consulted first. Knockout is one of the considerations that will have to be made.

“You won’t see GAA activity for a couple of months. If we all obey the instructions we are getting, and go by the guidelines, the health of the nation is far more important than the GAA.

I know people are missing the games and I’d say whenever we start back that we will have massive crowds.

Westmeath, meanwhile, have become the latest county to postpone their April club championship programme. Round 1 of the Westmeath hurling championship was due to be played on April 4/5, with the football throwing-in on April 18/19. Westmeath join Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, Dublin, and Wexford in deferring the club championship games they had intended to play next month.

Kilkenny have called off their April league games which dictate a team’s entry point into the county championship later in the season.

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