Former All-Ireland winning Galway manager and current Fine Gael Senator John O’Mahony has raised the possibility of playing the Allianz League finals behind closed doors.
The GAA has yet to reschedule any games due to the Coronavirus issue though with major sports events around Europe already affected and the decision to cancel the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Dublin, there are fears for the GAA’s fixture list.
The penultimate round of the football league is pencilled in for this weekend along with the two Division 1 hurling quarter-finals.
O’Mahony, who was in charge of Galway when the Foot and Mouth crisis impacted on fixtures in 2001, said he doesn’t envisage this weekend’s games will be affected but outlined a ‘worst case scenario’ where remaining games and possibly the finals could be played in empty stadiums.
“What the GAA are hoping, I presume, is that they’d get the league out of the way,” said O’Mahony. “I can’t see this weekend’s games being affected but then we don’t know. I’d say the worst case scenario is that you could envisage games being played behind closed doors to get the competition finished.
At club level, it’s a lower level, it’s not a mass gathering as such so you’d imagine that that (mightn’t be affected). The month of April is designated for club activity, or whatever club activity can go on, so I’d say the next two weeks are crucial and the GAA will be hoping and praying they can get their competitions run off.
Capping attendances at games may be an option for the GAA or they could simply ban supporters from attending games completely. Asked if he could imagine the football and hurling finals being played in empty grounds, O’Mahony nodded.
“As I see it , that could be the worst-case scenario,” said the 1998 and 2001 All-Ireland winning Galway manager. O’Mahony was speaking at an event to mark the awarding of an official club and county GAA licence to McKeever Sports. He recalled being in charge of Galway in 2001 when the Foot and Mouth disease hit the GAA’s league schedule, costing Tyrone a place in the football semi-finals.
“We were all kind of living in suspended animation like we are now, wondering was it going to go ahead at all,” said O’Mahony. “Tyrone couldn’t play because there were cases of Foot and Mouth in the north. My memory of it is that there wasn’t as much panic as there is now.
“But I remember we had all the precautions, the disinfectant mats and stuff for the players to walk on coming into training and all of that.
“In terms of the league, you got the sense that the competition wasn’t as important because you had teams excluded from it.
“We were beaten by Mayo in the final by a point. By the time the Championship came around it was history, it was over.”