Cork hurlers and footballers won't return to action until at least July

Cork hurlers and footballers won't return to action until at least July
Cork's Seamus Harnedy in action against Limerick's Barry Nash in the league. The counties had been scheduled to meet in the first Munster round robin game in early May. Picture: INPHO/Ken Sutton

THE 2020 Championships have been cast into further doubt with the news that the GAA are now aiming for a July start: "at the earliest."

The Association is this Friday holding a Special Congress, remotely, to come up with a variety of options if they are in a position to run off their traditional hurling and football competitions this summer and autumn.

Among the areas up for discussion will be which league matches to complete, in order to structure the divisions for 2021. This is especially important in football, where the Division 3 and Division 4 teams are due to be consigned to a new lower-tier championship if they don't reach the provincial finals.

This impacts on the Cork footballers, who were one win away from promotion to Division 2, which would protect them in the event of a loss in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the Munster semi-final against Kerry. 

Cork footballer Eoghan McSweeney missed the league but will now be fully fit whenever the championship starts. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo
Cork footballer Eoghan McSweeney missed the league but will now be fully fit whenever the championship starts. Picture: INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Of course, given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic it's hard to see light at the end of the tunnel. Should restrictions be easiest by the government, the GAA may have to run off a reduced championship in front of very restricted crowds.

The Cork hurlers had been due to take on Limerick in the first tie of the Munster round-robin hurling series, but the GAA won't be in a position to follow the format of the last two seasons in a limited time-frame. 

The minor hurlers would have been competing in a round-robin as well, tied in with the senior games, though the minor footballers' competition was due to be played off earlier, before the Munster final as a precursor to the senior clash.

Donal Óg Cusack and his minor hurling panel had been putting in ferocious effort in the early phase of the year to prepare for their campaign, while Bobbie O'Dwyer's footballers were diligently preparing to defend their All-Ireland crown.

The GAA statement acknowledges the club championships and up for discussion on Friday will be proposals to accommodate the elite hurlers and footballers as well as the majority. April had been designated a 'club only' month before the coronavirus outbreak.

The full statement from the GAA on Tuesday explained:

"The GAA acknowledges last weekend’s Government announcement of the extension of current restrictions until May 5 and its impact on the scheduling of sporting events and working practices, and has factored the extension of the arrangements into its contingency planning.

"To that end, the Association can confirm that club activity remains suspended until May 5.

"The senior inter-county championships, scheduled to begin in May, will be postponed until further clarity on the current situation is available.

"However, it is the Association’s view that it is highly unlikely these will be rescheduled any time before the beginning of July, at the earliest.

"When sporting activity recommences, the GAA will accommodate both club and county games. The Association also intends to complete the Allianz Leagues, or at least those games that have a bearing on next year's divisions, where possible.

"A Special Congress, held remotely, will take place this Friday to propose decision-making flexibility to allow us vary competition structures, if required, in advance of resuming games.

"In keeping with the approach of the Association since the start of this crisis, all of our decisions will be based on the advice of the medical professionals and the government.

"Finally, the GAA would again like to thank our members and units for their support at this time and for continuing to adhere to the government guidelines."

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