The John Horgan column: County board will be tested by small window for clubs

The John Horgan column: County board will be tested by small window for clubs
Ruairi Fitzpatrick, St Finbarr's, holding down Glen Rovers' Evan Murphy in their Rebel Óg Carrigaline Court Hotel U18 Premier 1 clash last season at Páirc Uí Rinn. Picture: Dan Linehan

CORK County Board chairperson, Tracey Kennedy was very honest in an interview that she gave last weekend in the aftermath of the GAA’s roadmap announcement for the commencement of games.

The GAA announced that club competitions will get first priority in July and inter-county activity will follow in October.

Here in Cork, the delayed season is going to present a massive test for the County Board given the large numbers of clubs that participate in the games at both codes.

The fact that there are so many dual clubs with dual players adds to the challenge in the scheduling of games and getting them completed by October 11.

It’s envisaged that it will be towards the latter end of July before championship fare begins so that gives you around 11 weeks to get everything done and dusted before the inter-county season gets going.

Kennedy stated that the County Board have a job on their hands to magic up a formula that will see the competitions concluded by that October date.

Kilcock GAA club is still idle before the GAA reopening. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson
Kilcock GAA club is still idle before the GAA reopening. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

She’s right and realistically, it may not be achievable and there will be some flexibility as far as some competitions are concerned, ones whose remaining participants don’t have inter-county personnel involved.

For argument’s sake, if you had four teams remaining in a competition and there were no inter-county players involved you would have leeway.

“Even when we have the whole year to play our club championships, we find it challenging because of the significant dual aspects of club involvement. Obviously, that is going to be a difficulty, there is no point in saying otherwise.”

Without a doubt, every county board will be under pressure to meet the requirements set out on the roadmap last Friday in Croke Park.

However, the challenge that awaits them is something that they will embrace given the fact that just a few short weeks ago it appeared that there would be no GAA season at all.

Here on Leeside the new-look format to the championships may have to be looked at in an entirely different light and may go by the board altogether to be replaced by a straight knockout system or another alternative.

The format for the club championships will be prioritised and it will be up to each county as to how they will run them.

Every club in the county will be challenged. There will be a great demand on pitch-time, clubs with five or six teams competing at county championship level, maybe more from minor to senior will have to put a schedule in place for training sessions. There will have to be an interval between teams arriving and departing for training.

With the nights getting shorter from August onwards, games at a venue where there are no floodlights will have to start from six o’clock onwards, maybe earlier.

Tadhg Mác Cárthaigh, member of Ardclough GAA in Kildare, during a training session on his own. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Tadhg Mác Cárthaigh, member of Ardclough GAA in Kildare, during a training session on his own. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

The 4G pitch in Páirc Uí Chaoimh is going to be in great demand, maybe two or three games there at night time. It will be the same in similar type pitches. Replays are very likely to go by the board too, games having to finish on the day or night given the time constraints.

There will have to be great co-operation between all the stakeholders and given the desire on everybody’s part to get back playing, that should not be a problem.

Responsibility

Off the field there is going to be huge responsibility on clubs to ensure that all the guidelines set out on the roadmap are met, ie a Covid Supervisor being appointed by every club, clubs will have to record attendance levels of players, management, coaches for contact tracing purposes if that was required thereafter.

Sanitising facilities and equipment will be a big undertaking too, filling out health questionnaires as well.

The club window will remain open for 11 weeks and in that time inter-county managers have been informed that there will be no collective training.

GAA administrator in Croke Park admitted that that might be a hard sell with inter-county managers but in the circumstances, he believed it was fair.

He stated that inter-county teams will have a full month to prepare for their championship opener and that’s absolutely plenty.

In this unprecedented time he’s right, county managers must make do with a shorter run-in He said that there was a cake there that has to be divided amongst a massive amount of participants.

The point that everybody will be making in all of this is that there will have to be a lot of give and take by all the stakeholders and for once the inter-county managers are going to have to play their part.

We won’t know until later on about what crowd participation at games will be like but you would envisage that in certain cases people will be able to attend.

Numbers would be restricted, of course, but that’s a ‘wait and see’ situation at the moment.

A couple of weeks ago GAA President John Horan stated he could not envisage games taking place as long as social distancing remained in place.

Well, a lot has happened since and more things may change if the health situation continues to progress as it’s doing right now.

There’s still a lot of work ahead for a lot of people but the closed road is opening up again for traffic.

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