With club GAA action on the cusp of returning, John Fallon has all the information you need.
When is club GAA back?
The 2020 GAA championship season begins in earnest this weekend when clubs all over the country take centre stage. Most counties have decided to start with underage competitions to ease their way back and try to deal with Covid-19 restrictions but there is senior action in five counties, with the Wexford and Dublin hurling championships providing the most eye-catching fixtures.
Is it hurling and football?
Yes. Aside from Dublin and Wexford in hurling, the senior football championships begin in Tipperary, Wicklow and Leitrim. The bulk of the other counties will begin their senior football and hurling championships over the next two weekends.
There will be four games in the Wexford SHC this weekend, with 13 taking place in the Dublin SHC. In addition, there will be 18 games in the Dublin Adult Football League.
Tipperary have eight senior football championship games down for decision this weekend, while there will be four games in Leitrim and Wicklow. Several other counties begin adult leagues this weekend in addition to junior and intermediate championships.
Can I go and watch a game?
Probably not. County boards had presumed that attendances at games would be set at 500 from next Monday and, accordingly, most have scheduled their club championships after what they thought would be the new restrictions. The delay in implementing Phase 4 of the Covid-19 roadmap to August 10 has created major problems for county boards.
Aside from the obvious loss of income, county boards have an impossible task in catering for fans who purchased season tickets. Senior championship games will be all-ticket, with county boards leaving it to the clubs to sort out the loaves/fishes problem of distributing the tiny allocation to fans.
If so how many people will be allowed in?
County boards knew that attendances at games this weekend would be confined to 200 in total. That includes players, subs, mentors, match officials, stewards, media and medical personnel. It is estimated that in most cases only about 60 tickets will be available for fans. In Galway, clubs expect to get 25-30 tickets each, while Roscommon have stated they hope to have 50 tickets for fans of each participating club.
A big headache for county boards will be policing U-20, minor and other games which are also subject to the 200-attendance rule. The added difficulty is that a lot of these games take place at club grounds where it will be difficult to get stewards and officials to oversee the restrictions.
What players can I see?
There will be no shortage of stars on view and while senior championship action starts in five counties, perhaps some of the biggest stars on view could be in Dublin where there are 18 senior football league games down for decision. It’s an opportunity for some of the All-Ireland winners to get their first taste of competitive action since March. It might also be easier to attend these games as restrictions might not be as strictly enforced.
In Wexford, Lee Chin’s Faythe Harriers will take on Paul Morris’ Ferns St Aidan’s, while Jack and Rory O’Connor will lead the way for St Martin’s against Shaun Murphy’s Oulart The Ballagh. Danny Sutcliffe’s St Jude’s open against Faughs.
Are there games on TV?
Yes. TG4 kick off their impressive list of live games this weekend with St Martin’s against Oulart The Ballagh in Wexford on Friday evening, with Ballyboden St Enda’s against Kilmacud Crokes in the Dublin SHC featuring on Sunday evening. TG4 will have live matches each Friday and Sunday, while RTE’s coverage, which begins on August 1 with St Finbarr’s v Glen Rovers in the Cork SHC, will be for Saturday games.
Are games being streamed live?
Yes, and this is going to be a major feature of the return to play. None of the games can be live streamed while TG4 and RTE are broadcasting matches, so county boards have to work their fixtures around that.
But the county boards have been busy, linking up with television production companies and local radio to come up with packages. The announcement on Wednesday of the delay in implementing Phase 4 of the Covid-19 roadmap to August 10 has increased the demand on county boards to come up with streaming services.
Wexford GAA will kick it off on Friday evening with deferred coverage of the St Anne’s v Rathnure SHC match, while they will show Rapparees v Shelmaliers on Saturday.
Supporters should check their own county board websites for details as plans are hastily being put together in light of the 200-attendance capacity until August 10. The cost of watching games varies. Tipperary have set a €10 per game charge, while Roscommon and Wexford will charge €5. It will be €8 in Limerick and Galway are expected to implement a €6 charge.