Former Dublin defender Dr Noel McCaffrey says the GAA’s true priorities will emerge in their reaction to the medium term restrictions on mass gatherings.
As Minister for Health Simon Harris poured cold water over the possibility of large crowds attending Championship games this year, McCaffrey believes there is a chance for the GAA to transform the competition into a two-month tournament later in 2020.
However, the Clontarf clubman is adamant that clubs have to be at the forefront of the resumption of Gaelic Games. “There is an opportunity for the GAA to, I suppose, relook at itself and what is its core raison d’etre and what the priority is for the rest of the year,” argues the 1988 All-Star.
“It will be important for everybody to see what decision is made because it will, I think, reflect the priorities of the GAA and what they currently are.
“It’s quite likely that as we get back into active games that what will be allowed is smaller gatherings such as club games. It is a possibility they will take place before big games can happen and I’m not sure closed door games will do anything for us. Closed door inter-county games, that would be very strange. Like, it’s not what we’re about. You might see some logic in that if this was a professional organisation but I don’t see the need for it.
“I think it would be far healthier for us that if there is a premium on time we would give it to clubs full stop. If it’s a choice of one or the other it would be interesting to see what decisions are made. I just could not see a situation arising where an inter-county season takes place and no club season because of that and I don’t think that is anybody’s intention.”
Before Harris’s comments McCaffrey — father of Dublin star Jack — had felt there was unlikely to be any mass gatherings “this side of September” and he knows the GAA will have to make a crucial call. “If it is the case that we don’t see mass gatherings this summer, it obviously leaves the GAA with a big decision about whether to try for an inter-county season at all or go with the club.
“Anybody who knows my views would know I would be 100% in favour of putting the club first. But it’s (a) completely unpredictable how long this is going to last, (b) there will be nothing in the short term and (c) the likelihood of mass events of any sort happening before autumn is slim.”
If there is an opportunity to play off the Championship in 2020, he would like to see it done on a concentrated, non-provincial basis.
“My own view on it is there is a fantastic opportunity here to once and for all try a brand new approach, run off an open draw four or five-week tournament, play matches every five days or whatever and get it done very quickly.
“It would be an incredible event but whether it would have any significant crowd presence is another thing.
I’m sure the GAA are considering all options and I’m assuming all options include something completely new for this year alone.”