McEntee more positive there will be football in 2020

Meath senior football manager Andy McEntee is more optimistic there will be a Championship this year after GAA president John Horan’s comments on Sunday.
McEntee more positive there will be football in 2020
Meath manager Andy McEntee. Photo by Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile
Meath manager Andy McEntee. Photo by Philip Fitzpatrick/Sportsfile

Meath senior football manager Andy McEntee is more optimistic there will be a Championship this year after GAA president John Horan’s comments on Sunday.

For many, Horan’s claim that Gaelic games can’t return so long as there is social distancing involved prompted fears there will be no organised football or hurling played this year and possibly beyond.

The Royals, who were relegated from Division 1 prior to the lockdown, could avoid demotion should the remainder of the 2020 Allianz Leagues not be concluded, as Horan suggested on Sunday.

However, McEntee is more concerned about the Championship - Meath were due to face Wexford or Wicklow in a Leinster SFC quarter-final on Sunday week - and was buoyed by what he saw and hear from Horan.

“Maybe I’m naive and missing something here but I was reassured by what John Horan said,” remarkd McEntee. “I thought he spoke really well and answered all the questions really honestly.

“What did he say? He said we will be governed by the authorities, what they allow and what they don’t allow and ultimately the decision about contact sport will determine whether we can go ahead with the Championship.

“Now, as it stands there is a pathway there for contact sports to resume. So he has made it very clear that we will be governed by the authorities. You’re talking about July and August, clubs will go back first and inter-county whether it is October or November.

“I was positive about it and my opinion has been for some time and remains that we will see football by the end of the year.”

On the possibility of Meath’s Division 1 status being retained despite relegation due to the 2020 League not finishing out, McEntee highlighted that it was a decision out of the county’s hands. “The league not being finished was one of the messages (from Horan) if you’re pushed for time at the end of the year and he said it looks unlikely.

“Look it, it’s something totally out of our control. If it’s decided then it’s decided but the latest remarks would suggest it looks unlikely that it will be played.”

From purely a playing perspective and being able to manage safety easier, McEntee said he can understand reasons for organising county games before club and the reluctance among club players to line out again this year as illustrated in today’s Club Players Association survey adds to that list.

However, the main finding from the CPA survey surprised him. “The impression I would have got from club players I spoke to would be that they’re mad keen to go back. They would go back next week if they were allowed.

“There is more money involved in the county game, it is more controlled and a more professional type of an environment. So in that regard it is easier to bring it back.

“However, if there are crowds involved then you’re talking bigger numbers. The playing side of it might be easier to control but the attendance side of it would be more difficult.”

Meanwhile, Armagh manager Kieran McGeeney says the GAA must find balance as it plots a return to play and ensure "the cure isn't worse than the disease".

The 2002 All-Ireland winning captain, who admitted it is annoying that the Allianz Leagues could abandoned as his team appeared on course for promotion from Division 2, told 2FM's Game On: "Everybody needs some structure to the day and for those that aren't working or furloughed to have training and things put in is a big help because we always say a healthy mind, a healthy body."

He added: "People are dying out there and we want to keep our families and our players healthy. I suppose we have to balance that with making sure that the cure isn't worse than the disease. For the mental health of our young people out there and everybody involved in our clubs and counties throughout the country to have some sort of structure."

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