Mayo forward Jason Doherty hasn’t given up hope of playing some club or county football this year, but feels that a decision will have to be made by GAA chiefs sooner rather than later.
The 30-year-old says he wouldn’t be surprised to hear some sort of an announcement from Croke Park officials in the coming days, and admits that he doesn’t know if he ‘could go on much longer’ preparing for a GAA season that may not actually happen.
“I’d say they are probably gearing up for some sort of announcement before May 5, so I think we will get some more clarity. Obviously, I haven’t given up hope yet,” Doherty told The Mayo News Football Podcast.
“My gut feeling is that there’s still a decent chance. Mentally, I don’t want to go to a place where I’m completely ruling it out because if I do, it just makes it harder to switch back on if we do end up going back into group training.
“And we’re told it’s going to be managed in terms of social distancing and we’re going to play behind closed doors, for example.
“Potentially, I think there’s still hope for some type of championship. I don’t see it taking the same format, I find it hard to believe that the league will be finished, but I’m not fully giving up hope even though it’s really hard to know.” Doherty tore his anterior cruciate ligament against Donegal in the ‘Super 8s’ at the beginning of last August but returned to collective training with the Westerners last month — just days before all GAA activity was shut down to try and halt the spread of Coronavirus.
The Burrishoole clubman says that he and his Mayo team-mates are in ‘recharge’ mode and happy to be given some ‘free headspace’.
In essence, he explains, James Horan’s message to them is: ‘Stay fit and be ready’.
“In fairness to James and the lads, they’ve treated this almost as a recharge. We’re all doing our own bits and checking in with the likes of Evan [Regan] for the nutrition, Conor [Finn] for the fitness, we’re all making sure we’re maintaining it, but it’s a chance really for lads to recharge. But the key thing is to be ready for when we get some more confirmation about timelines and stuff.
“I can see the logic behind not going gung-ho now with so much uncertainty.”
Doherty works in Dublin with the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, and lives with his girlfriend, Caroline McIntyre, who is a doctor at Tallaght Hospital.
As a result, the Burrishoole clubman has seen firsthand just how challenging the situation is for medical workers on the front-line, and he is also well aware of the risks Covid-19 poses for them and those closest to them.
“She has to do one 24-hour shift a week and has to deal with potential Covid-positive patients so that puts her at risk, and potentially me at risk,” he explained.
“So that would affect me in terms of being able to go and train collectively anyway. Me travelling home midweek to train, even if it’s socially distancing, potentially putting the lads, and the lads’ families at risk is a position I don’t want to be put in.
“So there’s a lot at play. I’m staying away from my own parents as well and had been before the 2km lockdown came in, so it means we’re very much housebound here in Dublin apart from heading to a park on a Saturday morning.”
He admits that all he wants to do now ‘is play football, and test the knee out’, but he knows that the current social distancing measures in place make it impossible to contemplate a return to team sports that involve physical contact like Gaelic football at the moment.
“I’d be lying if I said you don’t get the odd day over the last four or five weeks where you go, ‘There’s a good chance there won’t be football this year, I don’t need to do this running session.’ And there have been days when I didn’t do it, and I felt guilty, and I had to do two sessions the following day.
“And then there’s other days where you’re extremely motivated and you just want to get out.
“You do the skills, running, weights — so you go through different spells like that.
“I really hope we’ll get some indication before May 5, it kind of seems they’re gearing up to something,” he continued. “Realistically, I don’t know if I could go on much longer — we just want to get some indication of timelines.
“Even if you knew nothing was going to happen until October, you’d have something to work towards. But [they need to] just make a decision one way or the other, just so guys can plan around it.”