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Stars share coronavirus fears of a nation


Pat Horgan

Pat Horgan

Pat Horgan

Patrick Horgan cannot get his head around the idea of hurling for Cork behind closed doors - but who is to say it won't happen this summer?

Kieran Donaghy is concerned about the coronavirus and how it will affect the GAA season - but far more worried about whether our hospitals can cope.

This is the deeply uncertain world, changing more ominously by the hour, in which we now live.

Cork's failure to reach the Allianz League knockout stages means that their All Star talisman and skipper has no looming matches on his radar.

"If we were involved I probably would have put a bit more thought into it," Horgan admits. "Even for the championship, it's obviously a worry for everyone but all we can do for now is keep training and prepare like we are playing in nine weeks. What they do outside that, or how they'll play the games, I'm not sure."

What about pressing ahead in empty venues? "I actually couldn't see the point of doing it behind closed doors," he says.

"When you can hear the ball hitting off the hurley around the whole stadium, I just don't see it being too interesting ... I wouldn't be fancying it anyway. I don't think any player would. That's part of the buzz."

And yet there is another doomsday possibility, starker still: the entire championship postponed, no collective training allowed, no GAA full-stop.

Donaghy, the retired Kerry star-turned-pundit, is most worried about how the old and those with underlying medical issues are left in the firing line by Covid-19. The impact on football and hurling, while secondary to the above, also threatens to be very serious.

"We play enough trial games in empty stadiums and they're eerie when you're watching them back," Donaghy reflects. "But to be playing against another team and you can hear all the voices and you can hear the birds squawking above your head, it's just not good."

The flip side is that there may be "people at home going to be on lock-down if this is the scenario ... and watching a football game on the telly will be a relief for them and some way that they can get away from this whole thing. So that'll be very important as well.

"Look, it's a hard one but when you see the way it's ripped through Italy in the last five or six weeks - if that was to take off on that scale in Ireland, how well set up are we for it? And are we better to take action now and nip it in the bud?

"Maybe we've to stop it and condense the championship in the summer. I think people would be happy enough with that, to be honest," Donaghy reckons.

"We're not experts and when you look at Claire Byrne the other night and certain stuff on Sky News and you're seeing how the Italians are sorry now that they didn't react quicker ... it is something the Irish Government and sports bodies will certainly have to look at."