Elite GAA players and youngsters set to return but a frustrating waiting game for the rest

Majority of adults involved in sport will remain in cold storage in the coming weeks due to Covid
Elite GAA players and youngsters set to return but a frustrating waiting game for the rest

Páirc Uí Chaoimh is ready for a return to training in mid-April. Picture: Larry Cummins.

SPORT is on the horizon again for U18s, while inter-county GAA training resumes in mid-April with a view to proper action in May, and golf and tennis will also be permitted at the end of April.

Positive news for sure, with April 19 the target date for elite GAA players and other high-performing athletes as approved by Sport Ireland, the following Monday for the rest.

Overall though, the government update on Tuesday was pretty underwhelming. There was no real sense that normality is within touching distance.

Taoiseach Mícheál Martin's announcement was particularly frustrating for adult players, in all sports aside from golf and tennis. There was no chink of light for the top local soccer and AIL players, or simply those that enjoy a game of five-a-side, tag rugby, and so on.

Unfortunately, underage activity will be in pods of 15 and on a non-contact basis. Given the evidence suggests there is no transmissibility in outdoor sports, youngsters would be better served with proper training, where matches are the focus, not drills. 

Parents and guardians congregating around training times could certainly be a problem, but that would be the case whether sessions are full-contact or non-contact. It's up to adults to show some common sense and be cautious in that environment.

It's also odd that primary kids and teens can sit together in class and have lunch-time matches at school but then switch to pods for training. The bottom line is outdoor activity will return, though spare a thought for those whose passion is swimming, boxing, basketball and the rest of the indoor sports.

Golf and tennis are the only sports currently cleared for adults, aside from elite activity, from late April. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Golf and tennis are the only sports currently cleared for adults, aside from elite activity, from late April. Picture: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

The GAA will spend the coming days reshaping the fixtures calendar, squeezing in the holdovers from 2020 at minor and U20, including Cork's hurling All-Ireland against the Leinster champions, Dublin or Galway, and reformatting the league and championships.

The League of Ireland's return irritated a share of the GAA faithful but it was easier to phase back, with smaller squads and fewer teams, than hurling and football.

Whatever way the Association stacks up the 2021 season it'll offer a respite from the 'new norm' or whatever we're calling this phantom zone these days. Obviously, it'll be an honour again to get to cover games when they're behind closed doors, but for everyone with a passing interest in sport it will give that small bit of a lift.

Ireland in the Six Nations, Munster rugby, the exploits of Cork jockeys at Cheltenham, and Cork City and Cobh Ramblers playing ball again have helped lately, but the GAA has a place in the hearts of the Leeside public that no other sport comes close to.

The Cork hurlers were hindered last year by the length of the club championships, so hopefully they'll fire on all cylinders. The footballers stunned Kerry, flopped against Tipp and then saw manager Ronan McCarthy banned for a team-bonding exercise on Youghal beach during lockdown.

Funnily enough, his 12-week suspension will be up by the time a ball is throw-in again...

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