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Mayo GAA chiefs plan for games to restart

Sport

PLANNING Mayo GAA Board vice-chairman Con Moynihan. Pic: Michael Donnelly

Interview
Ger Flanagan

MAYO GAA chiefs are planning for the possible staging of the 2020 club championships in the months of August and September, with clubs being allowed to resume training in late July as part of Phase Four of the Government’s Roadmap for easing Covid-19 restrictions.
The chairman of Mayo GAA’s Competitions Control Committee [CCC], Con Moynihan, told The Mayo News last night that they are working off the advice of the Government, the HSE and the GAA, and are ‘ready to hit the ground running’ once they get the go-ahead.
Moynihan also revealed that a ‘behind closed doors’ club championship is a ‘non-runner’ for the Executive of the Mayo County Board and he confirmed that there are no plans to try and run off a ‘knock-out style’ championship either.
“July 20 is the start of Phase Four and that’s the day we would be looking at in our heads,” the County Board’s vice-chairman explained. “Hopefully you will be going back to football three or four weeks after that, meaning clubs will have three weeks training and possibly a [Divisional Cup] game before championship starts.
“Our best case scenario is an August/September championship, possibly even [running] into October. There will be no knock-out championship – there isn’t an appetite for it. You can’t ask players to train for a number of weeks for one game, we don’t think it would be fair on them.
“I don’t envisage having club football without spectators either,” he added.
“It has been discussed, but I personally think it’s a non-runner and that is the general consensus from talking to the Executive.
“Who is going to stand at the gate and tell people who have been heavily involved in building a club that they can’t go in and watch them playing football? Obviously, social distancing will have to be adhered to and that is one of the many questions to be answered by Croke Park.”
Moynihan also explained that the idea of running off the Mayo Senior Leagues hasn’t been discarded yet, but that it looks unlikely that they will go ahead this year.
A proposal ‘is on the cards’ for splitting the divisions into halves and playing semi-finals and finals between the top and bottom two in each. The third and fourth finishers would potentially contest a Michael Walsh semi-final and final, so as to provide them with games.
However, time will not be on the CCC’s side to allow that scenario to play out.
How GAA clubs manage the ‘return to play’ is another conundrum facing the County Board executive, with Con Moynihan suggesting that mass testing for Coronavirus is the only solution to give players ‘peace of mind’.
“We’re lucky that Dr Sean Moffatt is on the Covid-19 medical committee, so any return to play protocol will be decided well in advance from Croke Park,” he said.
“Obviously then there is each player’s personal circumstances.
“Some could be living with elderly parents, others may have a pregnant wife or girlfriend or already have children, so we have to hope Croke Park gives us guidance on these things as it will be an extremely tough decision [to return to play] for some players.
“Some people have quoted the Bundesliga and [English] Premiership model to me, but the difference is we’re a voluntary-led organisation, not a professional one, and we can’t ask players to isolate for six weeks to get championship played.
“So we’re waiting on the Government, Croke Park and the HSE for those guidelines. The capability for mass testing is there… and I think Covid-19 will be part of our lives going forward… and that will be key for players’ own piece of mind.”
The Ballaghaderreen native also acknowledged a ‘growing demand’ to let children back on to GAA pitches and knows that it will benefit them mentally and emotionally.
However, he admitted that it will be difficult to do so until further clarification arrives from the public health authorities and Croke Park officials on the many obstacles surrounding it.

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