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GAA Championships postponed: Croke Park chiefs eye July return and intend to complete Allianz Leagues

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The GPA have warned its members to prepare for a no championship eventuality due to Covid-19

The GPA have warned its members to prepare for a no championship eventuality due to Covid-19

SPORTSFILE

The GPA have warned its members to prepare for a no championship eventuality due to Covid-19

THE GAA appears to be facing a race against time to complete its All-Ireland championships in the calendar year.

As Irish sport continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis, Croke Park has confirmed it will be July at the earliest before its flagship senior competitions might commence.

But even this ‘best-case’ scenario is totally reliant on a relaxation of restrictions imposed by the Irish Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Responding to the extension of the current ‘lockdown’ until May 5, a GAA statement conceded: “The senior inter-county championships, scheduled to begin in May, will be postponed until further clarity on the current situation is available.

“However, it is the Association’s view that it is highly unlikely these will be rescheduled any time before the beginning of July, at the earliest.

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“When sporting activity recommences, the GAA will accommodate both club and county games. The Association also intends to complete the Allianz Leagues, or at least those games that have a bearing on next year’s divisions, where possible.”

Previously, the GAA had mooted the possibility of completing the race for Liam MacCarthy and Sam Maguire on schedule – so long as the competitions started by mid-June. That optimistic time-frame is now an obvious non-runner.

In the event that club games are given the green light first in a phased return, there is the option of running off the inter-county season towards the back end of the year.

To facilitate its contingency planning, the GAA will host a remote Special Congress on Friday. The hierarchy are seeking decision-making flexibility “to allow us vary competition structures, if required, in advance of resuming games.”

Last night’s statement reiterated that “all of our decisions will be based on the advice of the medical professionals and the Government.”

Therein lies the crux of Croke Park’s dilemma: they can only resume when this unprecedented public health crisis has abated, a situation over which they have no control.

There is an reluctance within the GAA to consider playing championship matches behind closed doors, another complication when predicting a potential comeback date.

Comments earlier this week, by Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan and Health Minister Simon Harris, highlighted the need for some restrictions and social distancing to remain until a vaccine is available.

This has placed a major question mark over mass-attendance sports events for the rest of the year.

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Online Editors