Will O’Donoghue: No issue with behind closed doors games if given green light

"When we talk about how eager we are to go back training or to see a championship played, I am equally eager to be able to go back and visit my grandparents sometime soon."
Will O’Donoghue: No issue with behind closed doors games if given green light

Limerick hurler Will O’Donoghue says players have no issue with a behind closed doors All-Ireland championship - but only if it is 100% safe to return inside the whitewash.

O’Donoghue would also have no qualms with the championship throwing-in as late as November if it was a case that health authorities didn’t give the green light for a return to games activity until well into the autumn.

The Limerick hurler made these comments on the same day that news broke regarding the Government’s intention to ban all mass gatherings until autumn. A behind closed doors championship will now come into sharper focus, an option Croke Park admitted as recently as Monday they have not yet given serious consideration to.

On the players' front, O’Donoghue envisages little opposition to games taking place in front of empty stands and terraces - so long as there is zero risk to players’ health.

“No matter how much a player might want to [play behind closed doors], if the health officials believe that is going to endanger the broader community, then it won’t be for us to decide. It will come down to whether or not it is safe to do so and are we putting players and the community at risk? And if the answers are potentially yes, then it just won’t be allowed.

“It will very much rest on the danger it brings to the community. Ultimately, a championship will only take place if the health powers say it is safe to do so. Because of family members they might be putting at risk, you won’t get uniform buy-in from all squads unless we’ve been given the green light.

“But if we came into a period of time where social distancing had disappeared, and behind closed doors was the next best option and was safe for the players, I wouldn't see too many players having an issue with it.

“If everyone was healthy and not at risk, I can't see why fellas wouldn't want to get back training and get back playing as an outlet. Given the lack of entertainment in people's lives at the minute, I am sure games would give an awful lot to a lot of people who are isolated at home. The GAA is a way of life for a lot of elderly people who would only love to be viewing it, reading it in the papers, and looking forward to it over the course of a week.”

Tuesday’s Government decision means there will be no All-Ireland championship until September, at the earliest. Was the start date to be pushed back as far as November, the 2019 All-Star nominee believes there would still be an appetite among players for a championship at the very back end of the year.

“I can’t see why players wouldn’t want to play games but, then again, if guys have been out of a collective training routine for the bones of seven months, would it be feasible to try and have a quality format run off in seven weeks where guys haven’t collectively trained in seven months? I don’t know.

“But like I said, I’m sure as soon as restrictions are lifted, and it is safe to do so, players will be mad to get back playing. I can’t see why anyone would turn their nose up at it after being out of action for so long.”

The Na Piarsaigh clubman, who featured in three of Limerick’s league games this spring, knows there is a growing desire among the public and GAA folk to see a return to normality that the championships represent. His own view is that patience and perspective are far important at a time such as this.

The 25-year-old also revealed John Kiely’s charges have, to a large extent, been left to their own devices during this lockdown and are not being spoon-fed S&C programmes they must rigidly adhere to.

“It’s very important to look at it in terms of what people are missing in life in general before the whole GAA thing. I have friends who are doctors. You see everything they are sacrificing and the positions they are putting themselves into. So it would be a bit rich of me to say I’m missing hanging out with the lads when these people are putting themselves in danger, are putting their lives on hold, and everything else that goes with the tough positions they are in.

I have a grandfather in a nursing home in Newcastle West and I have a grandmother who lives on her own in Abbeyfeale. When we talk about how eager we are to go back training or to see a championship played, I am equally eager to be able to go back and visit my grandparents sometime soon. We have to take those kinds of things into consideration.

“The humane side of it should be prominent more so than what we are missing on a sporting level.”

- In February, Allianz Ireland along with the GAA announced the renewal of Allianz's support of communities across Ireland through a five-year extension of its sponsorship of the Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues. Spanning 33 years and encompassing the 2025 season, Allianz’ renewed commitment to the competition makes the Insurance provider one of the longest standing supporters of Gaelic Games.

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