GAA Football

Empty stadia, deserted pitches… Sporting shutdown to stem Coronavirus spread

Empty stands as Manchester United's Mason Greenwood scores his side's fourth goal of the game of the game during the Europa League match at Linzer Stadion, Linz
Andy Watters

EMPTY stadia, deserted pitches and not a point kicked or try scored… Sport is in almost total lockdown until the end of the month, at the earliest.

Measures aimed at stemming the spread of Coronavirus have meant that Irish sport has been decimated for the next fortnight at least and the GAA, the IFA and the IRFU led the way yesterday by suspending games at all levels until March 29.

Cross-channel soccer will still go ahead and the IFA has yet to clarify the situation regarding Irish League fixtures and NIFL activity but a statement is expected today.

In international soccer, Slovakia and Bosnia and Herzegovina have requested postponements of their March 26 Euro 2020 play-offs against the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland respectively and it may turn out that there is no rush in playing those games because the entire Euro2020 tournament could become Euro2021.

Uefa has invited representatives of its member associations to attend a video-conference on March 17 to discuss European football's response to the outbreak.

The tournament is currently due to be held on a cross-continent basis from June to July but could be put back until next summer and there are now serious doubts over The Grand National (April 4), The Masters (April 9-12), the Tokyo Olympics (July 24-August 9) and many other sporting events including the Ireland rugby team’s planned summer tour of Australia.

Following yesterday morning’s announcement by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to ban gatherings of more than 500 people for outdoor events and 100 for indoor events, the GAA confirmed that all club and county activities were to cease.

"The GAA, An Cumann Camógaíochta and the Ladies’ Gaelic Football Association have decided to suspend all activity at club, inter-county and educational levels until March 29 (inclusive) from midnight,” read a statement.

"This is to include all games, training and team gatherings at all ages and all grades.

"We will continue to liaise with Government officials and review the situation between now and the end of the month, assessing the impact of these measures on our competitions.

"In the meantime, the Association is encouraging all members to continue to follow the guidelines which have been provided by the health authorities."

Schools in the Republic have closed but, bizarrely, the UK government’s decision to keep the North’s open means that children could have GAA sessions as part of PE but will not be able to train with their clubs.

Meanwhile, Michael Conlan’s WBO Inter-Continental Featherweight title fight against Colombia’s Belmar Preciado will go ahead at Madison Square Garden, New York on March 17, but behind closed doors.

The bill also features Limerick native Paddy Donovan and featherweight Fergal McCrory who, in normal circumstances, would have been cheered on by a sizeable travelling support from his native Tyrone. A statement from promoters Top Rank confirmed: “The March 14 (headlined by Shakur Stevenson) and March 17 events at Hulu Theatre at Madison Square Garden will proceed without spectators.

“The only individuals granted access to the events will be essential production and support staff, in addition to fighters and necessary team members, and credentialed media. Both events will still be shown live on their respective ESPN platforms.”

From global international events to grassroots clubs, sport at all levels has been affected. Thomas McCurtain’s GAC in the East End of London are one of a host of GAA clubs that has had to cancel or postpone activities.

“It is with the heaviest of hearts that we regret to inform you all that our club centenary trip to Cork is OFF,” read a statement from the club on social media.

However, in the steadfast belief that there will be light at the end of this dark tunnel, the club vowed that the trip will be made: “Ultimately, the craic WILL be had and we will not be throwing the towel in.”

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