A stop-start Central Stores, Kanturk Duhallow U21 Football Championship is down to five teams with the outlook growing ever remote of a return to playing activity in the near future owing to the growing surge in Covid 19.
The GAA landscape has changed dramatically during the past week, pushed to the background as health takes precedence along with social and economic considerations sure to become an added burden.
When the initial draws were made to the U21 FC, Duhallow Board organisers had hoped to finish the prestigious competition in Mid March, all in good time to send teams into the county championship.
However inclement weather influenced a series of cancelations during February and early March, to a lesser degree, the involvement of Coláiste Treasa in the Munster and All Ireland Colleges Senior Hurling Championship impacted on the U21FC progress.
Some headway has been made, Duarigle Gaels are through to the penultimate by virtue of back to back victories over St. Peters and Kanturk.
The Cullen and Millstreet combination are striving for a hat trick of outright victories having overcome Boherbue and Knocknagree in the previous deciders Semi final opponents are Sliabh Luachra Gaels who left it late before seeing off the challenge of Knocknagree in a titanic opening round.
Despite low scores and winter showers, both sides warmed up the proceedings in a stirring contest of committed football before the tenacity of the Ballydesmond and Kiskeam combination shone thanks to a late converted free by Thomas Casey to swing a delicately balanced contest.
Were Sliabh Luachra to take the outright spoils, they would write a new name into the roll of honour though Ballydesmond landed a championship title in 2002 with Kiskeam sampling glory four years later.
On the opposite side, a gritty St. Peters ended the hopes of Knocknagree in round 2, clearly the Rockchapel and Freemount combination learned a lesson from an opening hurdle defeat to Duarigle Gaels by a single point after extra time.
On this occasion, victory was well deserved for St. Peters, producing the energy and purpose in addition to coping much better with the poor weather conditions.
St. Peters did land a championship title in the second tier grade two years ago as they face up to Robert Emmets in a quarter final.
Interestingly, the Newmarket and Lismire pairing have yet to play a game in the competition but they are equipped to create an impression in a bid to add to their lone title from 2015.
Whoever emerges between St. Peters and Emmets square up to Boherbue in a semi final.
The latter produced a barnstorming recovery to snatch a dramatic victory over Kanturk in a thrilling opening round tussle.
Much of the excitement was packed into the closing minutes, a terrific goal from Cathal Ducey determined a memorable encounter to allow Boherbue shade matters by the minimum of margins.
With plenty to enthuse supporters to date in the campaign, fingers are crossed that the current state of uncertainty will pass over and let the games return.
Meanwhile, Cork GAA PRO Joe Blake has called on all clubs, players and managers to respect the current ban on collective training and games in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A blanket ban on all GAA activity, training as well as matches have shut down until at least March 29 following an original decision by the government to close the country’s schools, colleges and childcare facilities in addition to no indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor events involving more than 500 should be cancelled.
In light of the concerns, the GAA decided to suspend all activity at club, inter-county and educational level that involves all games, training and team gatherings at all ages and all grades.
“The directive from Croke Park is strong and clear, no training or games can take place.
“Our clár is put on hold, the health of the public is so important,” said Blake.
The GAA Injury Benefit Fund cover and Public Liability insurance cover is suspended since March 13 in respect of any playing or training activity undertaken by GAA Clubs or members or undertaken on club property.
“Should an incident arise during this current period and, upon investigation, it is determined that a club acted in conflict with the advice of health authorities, cover will not be provided by the Liability Insurance”, said Mr. Blake.
Cork GAA stress the crucial importance of all players and team personnel adhering strictly to HSE guidelines in relation to social distancing and other aspects of the current Covid 19 pandemic.
Players should not congregate, even in small numbers, for training sessions with shared indoor gym facilities avoided, as such environments pose considerable limitations on a users ability to adhere to both ‘Social Distancing’ and contact transmission guidelines advised by the HSE.
“Problems have escalated in other countries, our team managers, backroom personnel and players at all levels have not only a duty of care to each other but also to the wider community around them at this time.
“It’s all about battening down the hatches, looking after our friends and neighbours,” said the Cork PRO.
It is expected therefore that County and Club teams across the country will adhere to both the letter and spirit of what has been asked of them at this challenging time.
It means that the concluding rounds and finals of the Allianz Leagues, in football and hurling, have been put on hold for over a fortnight at the very least.
An inter-county level, 47 matches will be affected: 36 in the NFL (including finals), eight knockout matches in the NHL, as well as three (the semi-finals and final) in the EirGrid U20 football championship.
The ban extends to all club games and training – and likewise embraces all camogie and ladies football activity.
A Croke Park statement confirmed: “In light of this morning’s Government announcement, the GAA, An Cumann Camógaíochta and the Ladies Gaelic Football Association have decided to suspend all activity at club, inter-county and educational levels until March 29 (inclusive) from midnight.
“This is to include all games, training and team gatherings at all ages and all grades.”
The importance of strictly adhering to the ban in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The GPA and GAA have agreed that all collective training, collective gym sessions and collective team meetings are strictly prohibited throughout the period,” he said in a statement.
“Strict coherence is expected from all squads.
“Please be advised that there will be no insurance cover for players if breaches of this directive take place, nor will any expenses be paid.”