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'Government plan is good news for GAA club scene and gives flicker of hope for inter-county Championships'

Colm Keys


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Kevin Tattan (right) and his Russell Rovers colleague, Jack McGrath (left), trying to halt the progress of Tom Phelan (Conahy Shamrocks) in the AIB All-Ireland Club Junior hurling championship final held in Croke Park on January 18.

Kevin Tattan (right) and his Russell Rovers colleague, Jack McGrath (left), trying to halt the progress of Tom Phelan (Conahy Shamrocks) in the AIB All-Ireland Club Junior hurling championship final held in Croke Park on January 18.

SPORTSFILE

Kevin Tattan (right) and his Russell Rovers colleague, Jack McGrath (left), trying to halt the progress of Tom Phelan (Conahy Shamrocks) in the AIB All-Ireland Club Junior hurling championship final held in Croke Park on January 18.

Club GAA activity could conceivably commence from July 20, if the Government's phased easing of restrictions are strictly adhered to..

And the roll-out of the plan gives a flicker of hope that an inter-county championship could at least start by the end of the year.

According to the plan to bring society back together as restrictions forced by the Covid-19 emergency are eased, phase four allows for "sports team leagues (for example soccer and GAA), but only where limitations are placed on the numbers of spectators and where social distancing can be maintained" to resume.

While that social distancing clearly refers to crowds it still doesn't explicitly address the potential risks involved in engaging in a contact sport, as Gaelic football, hurling, Ladies football and camogie are, just under three months from now, something some players are still likely to have reservations about.

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All phases are naturally dependent on the public health picture continuing to improve.

The GAA has already informed counties that club activity will take precedence when restrictions are eased and the expectation now is that counties will press ahead with revised championships that will take place over the following months.

"Until they declare that contact sport is safe we won't be playing games and if and when we do return the club scene will be our priority where 98 per cent of our activity is. Club level includes all our inter-county players so as we are looking at it at the moment," GAA president John Horan stated on Monday.

Some of the bigger counties would require at least a 12-week window to complete straight knock-out championships that allows for alternation between hurling and football.

That could potentially see many counties complete their programmes by the end of October or early November.

And inter-county programme could not start straight away however with a consensus that a three to four-week pre-season will be required.

That could open the way for an inter-county championship to start sometime in late November/early December. The Government have already announced that gatherings in excess of 5,000 are banned until September.

The GAA has already outlined to its counties that a straight knock-out format, based on the existing provincial championship draw, is the most likely format, taking a minimum of eight weeks to complete.

The club provincial championships are likely to be sacrificed.

Under the phased plan GAA pitches will be able to open on May 18 with groups of four permitted to exercise, as long as social distancing is maintained. that would allow both club and county teams, provided they are within the new 5km exercise limit, to convene for some form of fitness work.

By June 8, phase two of the Government's plan, training in small groups can commence, with the provision to keep social distancing in place.

By June 29 "behind closed doors" sporting activities events where arrangements are in place to enable participants to maintain social distancing can commence but that doesn't include GAA games which are part of phase four.

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