Update: Adult GAA teams back to training from Wednesday; Cork soccer clubs can play friendlies from mid-July

Update: Adult GAA teams back to training from Wednesday; Cork soccer clubs can play friendlies from mid-July
Sunshine on the horizon... sport is coming back in full swing from next week and it won't be long before there are games at Páirc Uí Chaoimh again. Picture: INPHO/James Crombie

THE GAA and the FAI are ready to kick back into gear following the government's decision to allow full-contact training and matches from Monday week.

Adult GAA teams can train from Wednesday coming, and U18s down from Saturday, though only on a non-contact basis and with groups of less than 15, 10 in the six counties, before proper training and challenge games are allowed from June 29. 

That covers the men's side of the GAA, along with camogie and ladies football.

The FAI had already re-opened for training since last Monday but now League of Ireland teams can take part in friendlies from Monday week, while amateur sides can play friendlies from July 11 and competitive games from July 18. 

All Cork soccer leagues, aside from the West Cork Schoolboys League which operates on a 'summer' schedule, had already cancelled the suspended 2019-'20 campaign. 

However, the Leeside clubs still in the latter stages of the National Cups, namely Midleton's U12s and U15s, the Carrigaline U16s and Corinthians Boys' U13s, may now get an opportunity to complete those. Likewise, the prestigious Kennedy Cup for U14 inter-league teams might be rescheduled for later in the summer.

Naoise McAloon during a Peamount United squad training session earlier this week. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Naoise McAloon during a Peamount United squad training session earlier this week. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

On the GAA front, club fixtures can now commence on Friday, July 17, brought forward from July 31. This will allow more freedom for county boards to run off club championships before the inter-county season starts on October 17.

A major issue going on behind the scenes is between elite managers and players and county boards over the period from when inter-county training is allowed resume, on September 14, and the latter stages of their own championships.

Representatives of the Cork squad are understood to have met with Cork County Board officials last week to express their concern about the squeeze between club and county. Cork have yet to unveil a 2020 club programme, instead opting to hold off until the inter-county format is locked in over the coming days.

All GAA players or guardians, coaches and other team personnel still have to complete a health questionnaire and eLearning education before coming back, while dressing rooms will stay closed until July 20. 

The GAA Advisory Committee is still considering the position in relation to other GAA buildings, including club bars, gyms and handball alleys.

Regardless, the revised rules will now make it far easier for teams, particularly at underage level, to operate. 

On Friday, Rebel Óg, who run GAA from U12 to U18, emailed clubs with a proposal which didn't factor in any games for U13 and U15s, or large clubs with second teams, with leagues at U12, U14 and U14 and championship at minor.

They allow put a tight window until the end of September to get everything played in. While that's relevant at U16 and minor as players could be involved in the Cork minors, it shouldn't be a factor in competitions from U15 down.

There is already strong opposition to the culling of matches for U13, U15 and C3 (the second tier) in August-September, with clubs allowed to send their feedback to the committee until Wednesday.

From U8 to U11 it's likely, instead of large Monster Blitzes at venues such as Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the youngest players will get three hurling and three football challenge games with neighbouring clubs from September to mid-October.

The League of Ireland hasn't returned, with negotiations ongoing between clubs and the FAI over a financial package to cover losses due to limited crowds or games behind closed doors.  Most underage and junior soccer sides in Cork were still finalising their plans for preseason training.

Looking at the bigger picture, Minister for Sport Shane Ross announced a grants package of up €70 million.

If needed, up to €40 million will go the three main field sports organisations: the FAI, the GAA and the IRFU.

There will be a 'Resilience Fund' of up to €10m for National Governing Bodies of other sports and €15m to support clubs plus a 'Sports Restart and Renewal Fund' of up to €5m.

This will be invested through new grant schemes, administered by Sport Ireland.

Golf and tennis were the first sports to resume under strict social distancing conditions last month and horse-racing followed last week.

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