EVER since the first Irish patient was diagnosed with the coronavirus last month there was a sense of inevitably about the sports shutdown. It was just a question of when.
The late Bill Shankly suggested otherwise, but in the real world public health is more important than sport.
When faced with a crisis the GAA responded as you would expect the biggest and most influential civic organisation in the country to do. They acted in the public interest.
There was never much chance of them trying to circumvent the ban by playing matches behind closed doors. Apart from the difficulties associated with implementing the idea, it would have been a public relations disaster. The Association made the right call.
Nobody knows when the action will resume. There is no certainty that the Government will be in a position to lift the restrictions by the end of the month. In fact, it would be a major surprise if the ban is lifted then. All the indications are to the contrary.
The odds are that even more restrictions are coming down the line and it could be a long time before we see players back on the playing fields of Ireland.
But the unexpected turn of events has given the GAA authorities a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to take two radical – though necessary – steps.
This shutdown gives the Croke Park authorities a unique chance to wrestle back control of inter-county football and hurling from team managers.
It would be a brave or foolish manager who would try and break the ban on inter-county training in the next couple of weeks.
Now that the GPA have rowed in to support the ban the Croke Park authorities have the moral authority to throw the book at any county who attempt to circumvent the ban.
Withdrawing insurance cover for all GAA activity while the ban is in place would be another useful tool to deploy. But the pandemic is so serious that this might be one ban which might not need too much policing.
We will wait and see.
We live in hope that life will return to normal. The length of the shutdown will dictate how the GAA will reschedule their calendar.
There is a very short window of opportunity because the Association will be reluctant to schedule inter-county fixtures during the 'club only' season in April. Frankly, however, the odds are the ban will still be in place in April, or in a worst-case scenario extend into the summer.
In this scenario the GAA may have no option but to abandon the National Football and Hurling Leagues. The Under-20 Football Championship, which is down to All-Ireland semi-final stage, could be played later.
The GAA's insistence on squeezing so many competitions – the National Football and Hurling Leagues, the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups, the Under-20 Football Championship – into such a tight time frame has come back to bite them.
Climate change was already threatening to derail that plan with so many postponements and games being played on pitches which were patently not fit for purpose.
We trust that the coronavirus pandemic is a once in a 100- year event. But it does give the GAA a chance to make sure that we don't have a repeat of the spring shambles ever again.
Painful decisions will have to be taken.
Does the National Hurling League, for example, serve a useful purpose any longer now that the provincial championships in Munster and Leinster are run on a round-robin basis? Likewise have the provincial championships in football outlived their usefulness?
The GAA could be obliged to introduce a new format for this year's championships because there simply won't be sufficient time to complete the competitions and allow time for club championships as well.
The new Tier 2 Tailteann Cup could be postponed for a year as finishing places in Division 2 and Division 3 of the League was due to determine the identity two of the 16 teams due to compete.
The GAA could be brave and simply pick the teams based on positions after five rounds of the league.
A straight knock-out two-tier football championship with 16 teams in each section could be run off in six to eight weeks.
In common with all other sports organisations the GAA is likely to take a serious financial hit if the ban on playing extends into the summer. Mind you, there is an upside for County Boards. The ban on training will save them a small fortune.
But unlike most League of Ireland soccer clubs, for example, the GAA is a financially robust organisation, as are the four Provincial Councils, so they can take the hit.
Ultimately when the crisis passes sport will help lift the mood of the nation again. But for the GAA they simply cannot go back to where they were before.
The association is at breaking point because inter-county activity has turned into a monster which gobbles up too much money, time and resources.
Of course, it generates huge income for the GAA but at what cost? The Association needs to restore some balance. It was never meant to be just a money-making machine.
This unexpected hiatus has given the GAA's leaders and decision makers a unique opportunity to take stock about where the organisation is headed.
Instead of fretting about when rounds 6 and 7 of the football league might be played let them focus on the bigger picture.
We need fewer competitions and a more compact season and the coronavirus could oblige the GAA to do exactly that. And I bet we'd like it.