OPINION | 

Paul Curran: Underdogs will fancy chances of a shock knockout as favourites can have an off-day

USUAL SUSPECTS HAVE TO BE WARY OF BEING HIT BY A SUCKER PUNCH IN THIS UNIQUE CHAMPIONSHIP
Lee Keegan of Mayo runs past a coronavirus test centre station in the stadium before the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 7 match between Mayo and Tyrone at Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar

Lee Keegan of Mayo runs past a coronavirus test centre station in the stadium before the Allianz Football League Division 1 Round 7 match between Mayo and Tyrone at Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar

Paul Curran

I cannot remember a season quite like the current one. It has been a challenging time for the Croke Park hierarchy, but when we eventually get back to the normal we will surely thank our administrators for the good decisions taken throughout this period.

In the last couple of weeks, however, more coaches and players are expressing their concerns about running the championships and of course they are entitled to their opinion.

But to suggest that our county hurlers and footballers are increasing the risk of spreading the virus is too simplistic and could also be seen as scaremongering.

This virus is not going away any time soon and locking people up and cancelling all future outdoor sporting events isn't going to change that. In mid-March the country was effectively shut down and all activities, both social and sporting, were postponed for over four months. And yet here we are, seven months on, and the situation has not changed.

In the last three months we have seen all amateur and professional sport back up and running, the reopening of schools and businesses countrywide and with all this came great positivity and confidence to go back to what we were all doing pre Covid-19.

This avalanche of movement has had a negative effect and a surge in cases and this "second wave" was flagged a long time ago. We have to be extra responsible over the winter months and from what I see, people in general are doing the right thing.

The GAA family are no different, although there has been some bad press in the last few weeks after a sudden rise in cases was put down to teams celebrating club success. I am not condoning the celebrations, but they would have been very difficult to stop, especially in the case of teams who have not tasted success for years, or in many cases, decades.

It is very easy to be wise afterwards and maybe we should have seen this coming before county finals took place. But I think it was something that would have been practically impossible to police.

You are always looking for players to make the right decisions and in general they did that during the club championships. And like most GAA supporters, I thoroughly enjoyed the coverage and the games. The standard was at an all-time high and maybe it's taken Covid-19 to remind us all how important the club really is to the GAA.

It was an easy fix this year of course, so the real challenge will be fixing the 2021 season which won't be easy unless the county scene changes. I think the GAA are missing a trick and could start the national leagues in October.

Most county teams are out of the picture in June every year and yet have to wait until the end of January the following year to get a competitive outing. For me, that's just madness.

What would be wrong with playing three or four leagues matches before the end of November?

That would allow the leagues to finish earlier which would open up the calendar for a meaningful club championship and that is what everyone wants at the end of the day. We will wait and see.

County action kicked off a couple of weeks ago with the National League competitions and I, like so many people around the country, am really looking forward to seeing how the championship plays out.

It is great to see that fitness levels are extremely impressive, so I feel that the usual suspects will be there at the business end of the competition when it wraps up the week before Christmas.

The competition this year has changed back to straight knockout which will no doubt focus the minds.

This format has always provided a shock or two in the past. In a one-off game the favourites can have an off-day and that will give the underdog the feeling that an upset is possible.


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