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Tyrone have fresh doubts over new All-Ireland semi-final date​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


Tyrone players celebrate after their side's victory in the Ulster football final against Monaghan in Croke Park. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Tyrone players celebrate after their side's victory in the Ulster football final against Monaghan in Croke Park. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Tyrone players celebrate after their side's victory in the Ulster football final against Monaghan in Croke Park. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Tyrone may not yet play their All-Ireland semi-final with Kerry on the rescheduled date after a request for a two-week deferral was turned down by the GAA.

The match, originally scheduled to go ahead on Sunday, has been put back by six days because so many members of the Tyrone squad have been caught up in a Covid outbreak, either as positive cases or close contacts.

But Tyrone GAA chairman Mickey Kerr has stated that a decision on whether they will be in a position to meet that new date will not be taken until the weekend because it could be in contravention of return-to-play protocols and may not be compliant with medical advice.

This uncertainty is based around an apparent ‘Graduated Return to Play Protocol’, they claim was agreed by the relevant UK Institute of Sport faculties recommending a 17-day gap between the isolation period and a resumption of normal training.

“This is about player welfare and it’s clear that our players will not be ready to engage in a high-intensity championship game so soon after being directly affected by this virus,” said Kerr.

“We are also conscious of the fact that the situation is not an ideal one for Kerry and the uncertainty creates difficulties for their preparations for this important game.”

It is understood that up to 17 players have been caught up in Covid protocols but the majority will be free to move again from this weekend. Others will have to wait a few more days.

Consequently Tyrone will not be able to assemble a full squad until the middle of next week which is why they sought an extra week in the first place.

The GAA did not take the decision to move the date of the All-Ireland semi-final and final lightly, opting to also push the final out by six days to Saturday, September 4, the day before the All-Ireland ladies football final which takes the prime Sunday afternoon slot that weekend.

The GAA has been keen to stick to the schedule as much as possible because of the impact on club fixtures and the precedent being set by such movement.

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“They have decided that the final should be pushed no further back than Saturday September 4, but if something similar was to happen in the meantime to any of the two panels competing in the final, that date would disappear into the twilight as well,” Kerr claimed.

The Tyrone chair reasoned that the effects of Covid-19 and the varying isolation periods required for different squad members makes it impossible to prepare adequately for an All-Ireland semi-final.

“While we appreciate the postponement, which now allows us to be able to field a team, our request to have the match put back until the following weekend would have allowed us to be able to field a team that would be properly prepared,” he said.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to be able to field, but by the same token, disappointed that Croke Park have not given us sufficient time to prepare a proper challenge for Kerry.”

Kerr pointed to Tyrone’s decision to proceed with participation in the Ulster final despite a number of Covid-related issues as evidence of the county’s desire to behave in a reasonable and responsible manner at all times.

“While we had some positive cases prior to the Monaghan match, we didn’t request a postponement, because we felt we had a panel capable of fulfilling the fixture.

“The only reason we requested a postponement this time was because we definitely could not have fielded this weekend.

“Our ultimate concern here is the health and wellbeing of our players and the wider community during these challenging and unprecedented times.”

The second All-Ireland senior ladies semi-final between Cork and Meath, originally fixed for Tuam on Sunday afternoon, has now been moved to Croke Park after the All-Ireland U-20 football final between Roscommon and Offaly.

That gives the ladies of Cork and Meath parity with their Dublin and Mayo counterparts who are in Croke Park for their semi-final on Saturday evening.

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