GAA is all we have left to get us through this bleakest of winters

GAA is all we have left to get us through this bleakest of winters

The empty stadium when Cork and Louth met in the Allianz Football League Division 3 at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

HOW eager you are for the inter-county season to run from here until December probably depends on your personal circumstances.

For some, the prospect of Covid-19 entering their household puts vulnerable family members at risk. Others believe their age-profile and health insulates them. More just want to try and find some type of normality, even if that’s just by watching GAA games on TV or via streaming services.

It’s probably the same for players. If you feel your county has a chance of landing a trophy you’re going to be more enthusiastic about winter hurling and football than if you’re also-rans.

Leitrim gave a walk-over to Down in the league, which they didn’t put down to Covid issues, while Offaly withdrew from a round-robin senior camogie game with Cork. Neither side was in the hunt for silverware.

It’s rare on Leeside we’d feel sorry for Kerry, but their U20 footballers had a tough break in the lead-up to the All-Ireland semi-final loss to Galway, missing a clutch of starters who were in isolation. The Tribe was shorn of the Moycullen contingent for the same reason.

One of Moycullen’s promising footballers is Paul Kelly, who is also a brilliant basketballer. He drove his club to capture the prestigious Billy Kelly U17 Tournament at the Parochial Hall in 2018, where they beat Belfast Star and the gifted CJ Fulton (now Stateside) in a terrific semi-final.

Basketball as a sport is facing even more uncertainty than the GAA, primarily because it’s indoors, but also because it lacks the financial and populist backing of Gaelic Games. The national league season was shut down before tip-off, though the fact seven matches had been postponed before that decision because of Covid was ominous.

It was a genuine privilege to be at Semple Stadium on Saturday lunchtime to cover Cork’s minor hurling win over Clare. The grade has dropped from U18 to U17, which is a pity, but the Rebels hurled extremely well in the second half and having former stars like Donal Óg Cusack, Tom Kenny, Fraggie Murphy and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín involved with the youngsters is a major positive.

Cork minor selector Kieran Murphy talks to Tom Kenny on the sideline against Clare. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Cork minor selector Kieran Murphy talks to Tom Kenny on the sideline against Clare. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

The stewards and Munster Council official running the game in Thurles did a superb job. The U20s are due in action this evening in Tralee and no doubt it’ll be the same, assuming the game goes ahead.

It was interesting the GPA executive committee, after an online poll of players last week, unanimously agreed that the 2020 inter-county season should proceed.

That was subject to additional safeguards and supports for the welfare of its members, including stronger testing protocols, stricter compliance, and oversight of Covid-19 protocols in all counties and the use of the safest venue for games, in terms of location and facilities.

Now to be fair, from 1,695 players responding, 24% didn’t want the season to proceed. Still, the results indicated the appetite that is out there to pass the coming weeks with GAA action, where severe restrictions will be in place whatever level the government deem us to be at.

Safety has to be a priority. And teams will simply have to field without any players affected to Covid, either directly or as close contacts.

It is preferable to the darkest of winters.

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