| 13.4°C Dublin

Spectre of Covid makes All-Ireland timing 'not realistic'


Sky Sports GAA football analyst Peter Canavan

Sky Sports GAA football analyst Peter Canavan

Sky Sports GAA football analyst Peter Canavan

Kieran Donaghy has predicted that Covid-19 will scupper the GAA's plan to complete the All-Ireland championships before Christmas.

The former Footballer of the Year believes that timeline is unrealistic in the context of how the coronavirus is now directly impacting on inter-county squads.

And he reckons delaying the business end of the All-Ireland would be far preferable to the "dangerous" alternative of ejecting counties badly affected by the virus.

Donaghy was speaking at Sky Sports' championship launch, on the same day that Fermanagh announced the suspension of all GAA activity, including county training, after a number of players returned positive tests.

"I wouldn't be going down the road of pulling teams out. To be honest, if you're asking me is the All-Ireland (football) final going to happen on the 19th of December, I don't think so," he ventured.

"This pandemic is serious. It's coming back at us. We are trying to control it. We're trying also to live our lives; we're trying to have some bit of enjoyment to look forward to every weekend.

"Really, in the cold light of day, and when you see even the news breaking out of Fermanagh, guys are going to be close contacts; guys are going to get it; guys are going to miss training … are they not going to be selected because they missed training?

"This championship is something where adaptability will have to be huge. I think players, management, even ourselves in Sky Sports, we might have to change a game, or a venue, or go somewhere else to cover a different game if a team gets it.

"Me saying that there's going to be an All-Ireland final on the 19th, I don't think it's realistic with where we are now. If a team has a case and they have to go quiet for two weeks while people get tested and people get cleared, etc, I think they should at least be allowed a week to build back up to a game.

"So, I think it's possible that you see games being put back by three weeks here and there, and everybody else will have to adapt to it and wait."

Donaghy argued that the other option - "throwing somebody out because someone in the team has it" - was a "dangerous way to go. What you have then is the possibility of a player hiding it, or not going to the manager, because every fella wants to win an All-Ireland medal.

"And if a fella is close to an All-Ireland medal, he could make a bad decision for the health and wellbeing of the players out there."

Meanwhile, against the backdrop of soaring case numbers, especially north of the border, fellow pundit Peter Canavan has urged the GAA to consider "rapid testing" of county panels.

This could include twice weekly testing if required, similar to that practised by professional sports. "If you are a parent of a lad who is going to be exposed to inter-county football, I think you would want that reassurance," the Tyrone great said.

"You take different elite sports, there are measurements and procedures in place to make sure that there is no spread of the virus or that anyone that has it is out of action right away. I know there is quite a bit of expense involved in that but that should be available to all county squads. And there should be temperature checks going into training."