Kieran Donaghy has predicted that Covid-19 will scupper the GAA’s plan to complete the All-Ireland championships before Christmas.
The former Footballer of the Year believes the timeline is unrealistic in the context of how the coronavirus is now directly impacting inter-county squads.
Early yesterday, Fermanagh called a halt to all GAA action in the county until further notice due to “a number” of positive cases.
Fermanagh’s footballers are due to face Clare in a Division 2 tie in Ennis in nine days’ time and are also due to host Laois on October 24 in another must-win game to avoid relegation before opening their Ulster SFC campaign in a quarter-final against Down on November 8.
And with cases like this looming, Donaghy reckons delaying the business end of the All-Ireland would be far preferable to the “dangerous” alternative of ejecting counties badly affected by the virus.
“I wouldn’t be going down the road of pulling teams out. To be honest, if you’re asking me is the All-Ireland (football) final going to happen on the 19th of December, I don’t think so,” he said at Sky Sports’ championship launch.
“This pandemic is serious. It’s coming back at us. We are trying to control it. We’re trying also to live our lives; we’re trying to have some bit of enjoyment to look forward to every weekend.
“Really, in the cold light of day, and when you see even the news breaking out of Fermanagh, guys are going to be close contacts; guys are going to get it; guys are going to miss training . . . are they not going to be selected because they missed training?
“This championship is something where adaptability will have to be huge. I think players, management, even ourselves in Sky Sports, we might have to change a game, or a venue, or go somewhere else to cover a different game if a team gets it.
“Me saying that there’s going to be an All-Ireland final on the 19th, I don’t think it’s realistic with where we are now.”
“If a team has a case and they have to go quiet for two weeks while people get tested and people get cleared etc, I think they should at least be allowed a week to build back up to a game.
“So, I think it’s possible that you see games being put back by three weeks here and there, and everybody else will have to adapt to it and wait.”
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of soaring case numbers, especially north of the border, Donaghy’s fellow Sky pundit Peter Canavan has urged the GAA to consider “rapid testing” of county panels.
This could include twice-weekly testing if required, similar to that practised by professional sports. “If you are a parent of a lad who is going to be exposed to inter-county football, I think you would want that reassurance,” the Tyrone great said.
Offaly chairman Michael Duignan has admitted it was “a bitter pill to swallow” after his plea to Croke Park for an exemption to complete their hurling club championships this weekend fell on deaf ears.
“I know there is quite a bit of expense involved in that but that should be available to all county squads. And there should be temperature checks going into training.”
The GAA suspended all club games on Monday citing after-match celebrations and congregations as the chief reason, much to the annoyance of clubs still involved. Duignan made contact with Croke Park on Tuesday in a desperate bid to have their championships completed – including the Offaly SHC final meeting of Kilcormac/Killoughey and St Rynagh’s – behind closed doors but their efforts failed.
“After everything, and the second (local) lockdown, we wanted one more week. We had three hurling finals planned for next weekend. Really, at the end of the day, players are the most important,” Duignan told OurGame.ie.
“Sometimes we lose focus in the GAA because there’s so much else going on but it’s about providing games for players. To do all we’ve done and for all the work they’ve put in, to lose all that at short notice was a bitter pill to swallow.”
The Club Players Association (CPA) made a similar appeal to have championships completed but Duignan knows the boisterous scenes in some parts did not aid their cause.
“There have been a few breaches here and there, there’s no point saying anything else,” he said. “We would feel particularly in our own county that we have tried to do everything. For the players, for it to be taken away . . . we’re very disappointed.”
This content was originally published here.