A rescheduled and restructured Championship is a certainty for the GAA as a result of the Government and Department of Health’s decision to prolong coronavirus restrictions until May 5.
The new date falls just four days ahead of the start of the provincial senior football and hurling championships. In total, 20 games were set to take place across May 9 and 10.
The extension of the protocols will also force a reformatting of the competitions with the round-robin elements of the provincial hurling championships and Super 8 All-Ireland football quarter-final groups to be jettisoned for this season. While the newly-formed Tailteann Cup is also expected to fall by the wayside.
Unlike the FAI, the GAA chose not to release a statement in the wake of the widely-anticipated call to restrict movement to tackle the spread of the virus. Their commitment to adhering to the guidelines goes without saying, though, and although three inter-county managers in the last 48 hours have called for the powers-that-be to reveal a provisional start to the Championship they will keep their powder dry until the end of next week as a remote Special Congress is expected to take place.
That gathering, which will involved a limited number of delegates from each county and other representative units, is set to hand over special powers to the GAA’s management committee to determine how the Championship is structured as a result of the pandemic. A Special Congress had already been set to take place in September to discuss the format of next year’s football championship.
With almost €74 million worth of Championship revenue between the provincial and All-Ireland stages on the line for the GAA including gate receipt and sponsorship and media income, there is a determination to salvage the blue riband competitions so long as games do not go against the interest of public health.
The financial fallout began with Central Council-paid employees last week taking what is hoped to be a temporary wage cut, while Kildare County Board, one of five counties with significant stadium projects in the pipeline, have confirmed the plans to renovate St Conleth’s Park in Newbridge are on hold.
County chairman Mick Gorman told the Leinster Leader that there has been a delay and while project manager, former ESB chief executive Pádraig McManus, is not worried about the Government not following through on their €4.875 million commitment to the €10m project the funding may not be released as quickly.
Rebuilds in Walsh Park and Páirc Tailteann are also the subject of Government funding and the GAA has earmarked £15m for the reconstruction of Casement Park. This week, planning permission was granted for a multi-million facelift in Semple Stadium but work on that could also be postponed.
Meanwhile, the FAI confirmed the extension of their cessation order to May 5 in line with the announcement by the Government and Department of Health. “The decision to extend the deadline for the return to football has been taken in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and in the best interests of our players, coaches, volunteers, supporters and staff. This decision will continue to be monitored on an ongoing basis,” the statement read.