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Comment 'It is a mistake to press ahead with the resumption of inter county football this weekend'

"The government want to convey the impression that there is some degree of normality in the country even if you can’t visit your next-door neighbour or an elderly parent or a favourite grandchild. Meanwhile, The GAA badly needs the €15m championship ‘grant.’"

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1 September 2019; Supporters leave the stadium after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

1 September 2019; Supporters leave the stadium after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

1 September 2019; Supporters leave the stadium after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Remember the build-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003?

US President George W Bush and his ally on his side of the world Tony Blair were so hell-bent on over-throwing Saddam Hussein they shrugged aside the legitimate questions raised about not just the legality but the morality of their actions.

That project didn’t work out too well.

The GAA are equally hell bent on re-starting inter-county activity in just over 24 hours’ no matter what happens.

Legally so long as the country remains at Level 4, they are acting within the law and abiding by Nphet guidelines.

But there are compelling reasons why they should pause and reflect before pressing the re-start button.

When the GAA ceased all playing activity back in March there were fewer confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country than there are now.

Though it is best not to get preoccupied with figures one statistic should be noted. It debunks the idea that even if inter county GAA players contact the virus it is harmless.

In the two weeks between 29 September and 12 October: a quarter of the 245 people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 were under the age of 35.

Let’s be brutally honest – the virus is out of control on both sides of the border.

County players from Fermanagh, Armagh, Donegal, Galway and both Wexford hurlers and footballers have tested positive for Covid-19. With the best will in the world other county players will contact the virus over the next couple of months.

Fermanagh don’t carry any weight in the GAA corridors of power. They became the first sacrificial lambs when ordered to play their scheduled Division 2 league game against Clare on Sunday even though ten of the players had tested positive for Covid-19 and a further seven were self-isolating for the last ten days.

One wonders how the GAA would have reacted if Dublin footballers or Tipperary hurlers announced that more than half their squad were out of bounds for an impending game due to Covid-19.

GAA fans like to claim that Gaelic football and hurling are elite sports. Name any other elite sport in the world where players must make a 500-mile trip in their own cars to fulfil a fixture.

But that’s the nightmare scenario facing the footballers of Kerry who are travelling to Inniskeen in County Monaghan by car to fulfil their fixture on Saturday.

The GAA and the government appear to have struck up an understanding – the 2020 All-Ireland championship must be played.

The government want to convey the impression that there is some degree of normality in the country even if you can’t visit your next-door neighbour or an elderly parent or a favourite grandchild. Meanwhile, The GAA badly needs the €15m championship ‘grant.’

At best it will be joyless championship played in empty stadia in wintery weather.

Remember the plans for the rescheduled championship were made in mid-summer when the numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases were falling, and we foolishly thought the worst was over.

As was the case with the Spanish flu 1919 there was always the prospect of a second wave of the virus coming in the fall. And it has arrived bang on schedule – not just in Ireland but throughout western Europe.

Sure, the championship will begin in two weeks’ time but the chances of it finishing look remote.

Either the country will move to Level 5 next month or counties will only be able to field shadow teams at the business end of the competition due to players contacting the virus. Then the competition becomes fatally devalued.

The GAA has scarcely put a foot wrong so far in their handling of the endemic. But it is a mistake to press ahead with the resumption of inter county football this weekend.

The sun will still rise on Christmas morning even if there is no All-Ireland championship in 2020.

Online Editors