Cork hurler Shane Kingston has expressed reservations at the possibility of this year’s All-Ireland championship spilling into 2021.
GAA president John Horan has said the 2020 inter-county championships could be completed next year but won’t go beyond February.
Kingston’s own preference is for the hurling championship to be completed within the calendar year. Given most counties began preparations for the 2020 season in October or November of last year, to have the delayed championship run into next year would mean a 14-month season for inter-county players who continued to train on their own during lockdown.
“October ‘19 to February 2021, that is like a 14-month season. The amount of people that will be getting burned out and picking up injuries they would not previously have picked up has to be taken into consideration as well. People are always on about player burnout and that epitomises player burnout,” Kingston reasoned.
“Also, if things are going as far as February, it will probably mean the Fitzgibbon Cup being wiped. And if you are playing an All-Ireland semi-final or final in February, are you really going to be looking at the 2021 league a week later? If you won the All-Ireland on the Sunday and you have a league game the following Saturday, are you really going to be looking forward to that?”
The 22-year-old accepts the provincial round-robin format is not doable if the All-Ireland champions are to be crowned in December. But rather than straight knockout, he advocated for a back door system.
“Given what is going on and the fact there is so little preparation for it, it is probably right and fair that teams should have a second chance."
A Club Players Association survey last month found that 22% of club players polled were not prepared to return to training before a Covid-19 vaccine was found, while another 21% were unsure if they would be willing to step back inside the whitewash. Kingston does not fall into either bracket and with all his family in good health, he cannot wait to get back into collective training.
“Obviously people will have concerns. That's completely understandable. For me personally, I'd jump at the opportunity to go back.
“Thankfully, every one of my family is healthy. It would be completely different if someone wasn't healthy. You'd be thinking twice about it.”
With only an 11-day window where contact training is permitted prior to the resumption of club action, Kingston is hopeful he did enough during lockdown to mitigate against the risk of injury
“Eleven days of contact, you probably will be picking up a lot of niggles. It's not ideal, but it’s better than not having anything. Hopefully, we will be alright and get through it.
“A muscle injury now, you’d be like, ‘that’s only two or three weeks’, but that could be your whole championship gone. That’s hugely important to stay injury-free.
“At the start [of lockdown], I was training flat out. Then I realised after a while, this is for the long-haul, not a few weeks, so I toned it down a bit. At the moment, you're not match-fit. You can be as fit as you want, but when you are getting belts, trying to get the ball, and trying to take someone on, it is a completely different fitness.”