IT’S the hope that kills you. The image of Leo and Tubs chewing the fat about the possibility of a 2020 GAA championship happening in - shock horror - 2020 reignited the dying embers of a dream.
But then your inner sceptic paused to consider that Leo Varadkar and Ryan Tubridy are probably the last two people on this island you’d trust to have their hands on the pulse of the GAA nation.
True, our caretaker Taoiseach is a doctor who knows all about reading pulses - but diagnosing the psyche of your average club player, official, fan, or his inter-county counterpart?
“Obviously that’s a matter for the GAA,” said Varadkar on Friday night, as he and his Late Late Show host speculated on the beguiling prospect of an inter-county championship.
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“Not with spectators but it could be done. I think it’s possible. You’d be talking August and September. It would be a later calendar than we’re used to.”
Straight away, that putative time-line raised alarm bells. GAA president John Horan has already publicly reaffirmed that, if and when it is deemed safe to resume football and hurling, it will happen at the club coalface first. There is a pecking order of priority: county championships first, then inter-county.
But this is presupposing it is possible at all in 2020.
The (understandable) signs of strain between a governmental desire to prise open the lockdown and the predominantly health-focussed caution of the National Public Health Emergency Team have been manifest in recent days.
This extends into the realm of sport, and the myriad problems associated with a resumption of contact games were spelled out in cogent detail in a lengthy weekend interview given by Dr Cillian De Gascun to The Irish Times.
De Gascun is director of UCD’s National Virus Reference Laboratory and a member of NPHET. He was also a handy rugby player in his youth, an Irish schools international; you can’t tar him with the glib label of medical geek who doesn’t ‘get’ the importance of sport.
So, when he talks about the return of team sports as not being something “we could recommend from a public health perspective without social distancing”, you cannot but query the projected return date of July 20 for soccer and rugby matches “where limitations are placed on the numbers of spectators and where social distancing can be maintained.”
“Assuming we are not going to have an anti-viral therapy or a vaccine for 12 to 18 months, it is difficult to recommend. I think team sports are going to be in a very difficult position,” De Gascun warned.
Still, best not to get overly pessimistic as we face into a long summer minus the familiar sights and sounds and even smells (freshly cut grass, anyone?) of the GAA’s flagship championships.
Let us suppose this incorrigible coronavirus is so successfully tamed over the coming weeks and months that the various restrictions can be safely eased, step by stealthy step.
At which point, let us assume the risk of infection is deemed sufficiently low as to let counties play off their club championships in the safest, most spacious and deep-cleansed environment possible.
Let us square the circle of contact sport in a world where we all live two metres apart (good luck with that).
If all this comes to pass - an enormous if - maybe we could have an inter-county championship starting in late autumn. But how would that look?
It would, almost certainly, happen behind closed doors. Even the logistics of socially distant fans, while theoretically feasible in Croke Park and some of the other larger and more modern venues, appear fraught with difficulty.
Empty stadia pose two major problems. The most pressing being financial: 49pc of the GAA’s central revenue came from gate receipts last year, most earned via championship.
That’s before you accept the soulless reality of a captain lifting Sam or Liam in an echo chamber. “Football is nothing without fans,” said Jock Stein. This applies to the GAA, arguably even more than professional sports.
Still, if sponsorship and broadcasting revenues are to be rescued, games without fans may well be the only alternative. How would this manifest itself? The role of TV will be hugely amplified, even if broadcasting matches minus the visual and aural backdrop of packed stands is scarcely ideal.
RTÉ (which broadcast 31 live matches last summer) and Sky Sports (14 exclusive games plus six simulcast semis and finals) will both be at the ready whenever the green light is given.
But this is not without complications. Instead of the GAA enjoying virtually free summer rein, it could find itself in a very congested end-of-year TV market - competing for airtime against the Premier League, elite golf, domestic soccer and rugby (this would likely still be too early for wholesale international sport).
Sky have the advantage of multiple platforms, unlike our national broadcaster, but RTÉ would be sure to place Gaelic games front and centre whenever ‘live’ sport returns.
There will be fewer fixtures in a constricted - possibly straight knockout - championship. The flip side is that, if fans can’t be there, TV will seek to fill the void and a higher percentage of games are likely to be broadcast.
Critics of the GAA’s dalliance with subscription sports TV will be even more vocal: what about the impoverished OAP, with no access to Sky, who can’t even go to the match any more?
And finally, where can all of these televised games take place in an environment that preserves social distancing etiquette for stewards, backroom teams, broadcast and other media - whatever about players on the pitch?
Only a select few stadia are likely to tick all the boxes and this increases the likelihood of double-headers, maybe even triple-headers - obviously Croke Park with dressing-rooms on opposite sides as well as Páirc Uí Chaoimh and one or two others.
It all sounds very complicated.
Welcome to Championship 2020 - if it ever happens at all.