THE pressure on the main sporting bodies to try and twist the Government’s hand on attendance limits at games is beginning to crank up.
The start of the national leagues in football at the end of the month and in hurling a week later will place the spotlight on the GAA.
The beginning of next month, though, is a completely different story because the Six Nations is scheduled to start with Ireland hosting Wales at the Aviva Stadium on February 5.
Instead of 40,000-plus, current guidelines mean just 5,000 can attend, leaving the IRFU chiefs with major headaches.
And then there are the secondary schools competitions like the Dr Harty Cup in hurling, the Corn Uí Mhuirí in football and the Munster Schools Senior and Junior Cups in rugby to factor into the equation, too.
Crowd limits aren’t the issue; more like having enough healthy players and teachers to allow games go ahead.
Both the GAA and the IRFU are struggling financially though Government supports have been a lifeline.
At the moment there is an upper limit of attendances of 5,000 for outdoor events and this is in place until the end of the month.
It will be in situ for the start of the national football league and is sure to impact on some games, particularly those involving Ulster counties and the likes of Mayo, Dublin, Meath, and Kerry.
Croke Park is the venue for Dublin-Armagh on the 29th and the following day there are a number of attractive fixtures featuring Kerry away to Kildare, Mayo facing Donegal, and Tyrone-Monaghan in Omagh.
The showpiece of the start of the hurling league is the visit of All-Ireland champions Limerick to play Wexford.
And while that game comes after the January 31 deadline, nobody expects any change in the Government’s stance and is sure to be extended with a possibility of even a reduced number of spectators depending on Covid figures.
All this is set against a backdrop where the Omicron variant is not expected to peak for another week at least, highlighting the fragility of everyday life never mind sport.
So far, the GAA has managed to keep going without too much interruption apart from the footballers of Waterford and Wicklow having to withdraw from games due to Covid and injuries.
There’s hardly a county team in the country not affected by the virus, either directly or through close contacts, while those clubs still in the hunt for provincial honours across three grades in football and hurling are safeguarding everyone as practical as possible.
Before schools returned after the holidays, the organisers of Gaelic games in Munster met to discuss what must be a very fraught situation indeed.
Given that manning classrooms with enough teachers is a monumental challenge in its own right, you can only imagine what it’s like to keep sports ticking over in all this uncertainty.
The Post-Primary Schools committee decided to postpone all fixtures for yesterday and Thursday in addition to competitions due to start next Wednesday and the following Wednesday, as well.
The aim is to re-fix these competitions for some time in February. These competitions will be broken down into regional blitzes first, with schools progressing to knockout stages from there.
There is good news, however, with today’s three Dr Harty Cup ties going ahead as planned, featuring Midleton CBS against Ardscoil Rís and CBC against Tulla.
And the three Cork schools involved in the Corn Uí Mhuirí, Hamilton HS Bandon, Skibbereen CS and Clonakilty CC, will play their quarter-finals this day week.
All remaining competition fixtures will be revised and rescheduled for Saturdays in an effort to avoid any issues with cover and to ensure these competitions get played.
The normal fixture procedure still applies and Munster PPS will try to facilitate where possible to playing mid-week games.
Meanwhile, Canice Kennedy is running an online five-week sports psychology course for coaches, starting on Tuesday on Zoom at 8pm and will last for 90 minutes, costing €60.
It will attempt to help coaches in developing their coaching skills, covering areas like confidence in sport, mental toughness and coaching performance.
Further information from email@example.com.