GAA Football

GAA considering options amid coronavirus threat

Ulster Schools say the MacRory Cup final will still go ahead as planned, but that they will "do the responsible thing" if the coronavirus situation escalates. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

THE GAA says it is considering “various different options” to deal with the threat of coronavirus to both National Leagues and this summer's football championship.

With both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland's Euro2020 playoff games confirmed yesterday as being played behind closed doors, as well as a number of European games, the impact of the virus on sport continues to mount.

Six Nations rugby games have already been called off, although the first day of Cheltenham's racing festival went ahead yesterday as planned.

The GAA has had regularly meetings, both internally and with the HSE in the Republic, to discuss possible eventualities, but has not yet received any direction to alter its schedule.

Tom Ryan, the GAA's director general, headed a delegation that met with Health Department staff last Friday.

Ulster Council have been kept updated on the situation “to ensure consistency in messaging given the two different health departments involved”, said a GAA spokesperson.

Ordinarily the idea of not finishing the leagues would have had no material impact on the summer's GAA action, but the introduction of a tiered football championship this year has complicated matters.

Teams' championship grading is dictated by their finishing position in the league, with those teams who will play in Divisions One and Two in 2021 entering the senior tier, along with anyone from the bottom two leagues that reaches a provincial final.

The tiered structure in hurling is different in that championship grading is not linked to league performance, meaning the idea of not finishing the hurling leagues would not have a knock-on effect.

A total of 21 football and hurling league fixtures are due to take place this weekend, as well as the All-Ireland U20 football semi-finals and schools' finals on St Patrick's Day.

Clubs and counties have been advised on supplying hand sanitiser and encouraging all members to wash their hands thoroughly, but as of now, no firm course of action has been decided.

Ulster Schools, meanwhile, say next week's MacRory and MacLarnon Cup finals are in “no more or less danger than any other game” and that it too will take its guidance from government authorities.

Old rivals St Patrick's, Maghera and St Colman's, Newry are due to meet next Tuesday in Armagh's Athletic Grounds, with St Pius X, Magherafelt and Our Lady & St Patrick's College, Knock down to play the curtain raiser that morning.

With six days still to go, Ulster Schools' secretary Seamus Woods says that plans remain to go ahead with the game, but that they will “do the responsible thing”.

“We had a meeting last night to finalise all our arrangements, everything's in place,” he said.

“We'll take all the relevant advice into consideration and act responsibly.”

The 2001 MacRory Cup final replay had to be postponed on the morning of the game after the outbreak of foot and mouth disease at the time spread in to counties Antrim and Tyrone.

Omagh CBS were due to face St Michael's Enniskillen at Casement Park, but the GAA nationally issued a 30-day exclusion zone that also saw Tyrone pulled out of a National League semi-final and the U21 championship delayed.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football