The John Horgan column: It was quite scary to pass Páirc Uí Chaoimh and a long queue of cars for Covid-19 tests

The John Horgan column: It was quite scary to pass Páirc Uí Chaoimh and a long queue of cars for Covid-19 tests
Páirc Uí Chaoimh is now a Covid-19 test centre, instead of the hub of Cork GAA. Picture: Larry Cummins.

THE comments earlier this week of Wexford County Board chairman Derek Kent when he suggested that club games should be played before the inter-county programme resumes made a lot of sense.

Of course, there is a big if whether or not the games get the green light at all but, please God, let’s hope that the worst-case scenario does not come to pass.

At this point in time, no firm proposals can be put down but the Wexford chairman believes that it makes more sense to get the club scene underway first.

He bases those comments on the fact that club games would attract much smaller attendances and that’s what would be required when the process gradually gets underway again.

Then again, any sort of a game would generate a big attendance when it does start up again because people will be so desperate to get out and watch a match and a local club game might have a house near full sign up.

However, club games would not generate the thousands of supporters that would gather at a provincial venue, something that would be the case if you had Cork meeting Limerick.

Let’s be honest, the terrible current situation is not going to disappear overnight and when the green light is given to resume, restrictions are going to have to be put in place as regards attendance levels.

It may well have to be a gradual process before we get back to normal.

The Wexford chairman believes and he is quite right to state that going on with club games first would be best for everybody.

"Could a scenario where the club championships are played off in July and August and then the inter-county resumes be looked at, I certainly think so. There would be less crowds, more players impacted and the club, after all, is the heart of the GAA."

The worst-case scenario, of course, would be that there will be no games at all this year but we do not want to think about that, but if this health crisis continues into the months of June and July and beyond it could happen.

Right now, we are in limbo as to what the future holds.

But it’s a time for being positive too and when the season does get going again clubs and particularly inter-county teams are going to need time to have what you’d call a pre-season, a time to get back to full match fitness.

That point was made by Cork football boss Ronan McCarthy on Tuesday.

“All teams will certainly need four weeks I think, of training and getting back to major game fitness and before that training fitness," he said.

Given the level of intensity that is now required at inter-county level, it’s difficult to argue with that viewpoint.

Whatever transpires, let’s hope we have a game to go to sooner rather than later but the health and safety of everybody is of paramount importance.

The absence of Gaelic Games and other sports too affects the livelihood of people outside the playing personnel and those who administer the games.

Kian O'Kelly of Tipperary scores a goal despite the attentions of Ger Collins and Daire Connery of Cork in U20 hurling final. Will there be a championship this season? Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Kian O'Kelly of Tipperary scores a goal despite the attentions of Ger Collins and Daire Connery of Cork in U20 hurling final. Will there be a championship this season? Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Take the newspaper industry, that depends to a large extent on sport, particularly the GAA for its circulation figures.

The GAA in many instances is the lifeblood of the newspaper industry.

The GAA supplements at the weekend are hugely popular, the viewpoints of the columnists that the paper employs are widely read as are all the other things that accompany a match report.

A summer without GAA games would have an adverse effect on the paper industry as it would on the lives of many more, the businesses in Thurles, Limerick and so on but let’s hope that will not happen.

Thus far the GAA has been impeccable in its response to the crisis. 

They didn’t hesitate in opening up their facilities all over the country for Covid-19 testing, here in Cork Páirc Uí Chaoimh being one of them. In saying that every sporting organisation has stood up to be counted.

In fact, it was quite scary recently to pass Páirc Uí Chaoimh and to witness a long queue of cars with people waiting to be tested.

We have in the past cursed long queues of cars going down to the venue for the big games but we’d gladly put up with them again if there was a game on and the facility was not a testing centre anymore.

The GAA has faced many challenges down through the ages but it has always shone through in the darkest of them.

Big decisions will have to be taken sooner rather than later and they must be the correct ones.

But the idea of playing club games initially makes plenty of sense because you are catering for far more players, players who are idle right now.

One idea, of course, would be to forget about the provincial and All-Ireland club championships for this year.

That would remove a lot of the hassle in trying to meet deadlines for their conclusion.

I do not think there would be much opposition to this and you could then be playing local club and maybe inter-county games right into December if the need arose.

We are still only in the first days of April and time is still on the side of the GAA as regards the playing of its games.

The national leagues are almost certainly gone by the board but we might yet get a championship season to remember.

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