GAA Football

Down captain believes social distancing could be barrier to football's return

Down captain Darren O'Hagan in action against Tyrone earlier this year. Picture by Philip Walsh.

DOWN captain Darren O’Hagan says the GAA will always be there no matter what happens this year – but talk of social distancing measures being extended means he doesn’t see much inter-county football being played in 2020.

The GAA’s director general Tom Ryan admitted last week that the association was facing a €60m hole in its finances if the championships are not played this year, and hinted that they would look “significantly different” if played.

Yesterday it was confirmed that the International Rules series, which had been scheduled to take place in November and include the GAA’s Bloody Sunday commemoration, will not take place after the AFL pulled out.

While other sports are beginning to look into the idea of playing games behind closed doors if and when the spread of the virus is stemmed, the issue of continued social distancing measures could be significant.

Medical officers have warned that they could be in place for six months or more.

O’Hagan says he hopes that inter-county football returns later in the year but admits he’s struggling to see how it will.

“What’s being done has to be done at the minute, life’s far more important than football. The GAA will always be there next year but if you lose somebody, they won’t be. You have to look at it like that,” said the Clonduff native.

“There’s more to life than football, even though at times at the minute it doesn’t seem like it, there’s nothing else to do.

“I think it could be scrapped. It’s hard to know. I really hope not. I just don’t understand what people do that aren’t involved with sport – what do they do with their lives?

“There’s talk it’s going to take months to read this up and then months after that of still doing social distancing.

“How are you supposed to go back into a changing room full of fellas? You’re near sitting on top of each other unless it’s Croke Park or Pairc Ui Chaoimh.

“How are supporters supposed to go and watch a match?”

O’Hagan feels that even if there is some return to normality later in the year, the levels that county teams would need to attain before playing games could be a barrier to smoothly running off games.

If there is a return to play, Tom Ryan said that the GAA must also take into account the need to leave “plenty of space” for club championships and, if possible, leagues.

“If we’re going back to county, you can’t just go back to training on the Monday night and play a county match the following Sunday. You need at least three or four weeks before you’d be going into a game.

“They might be able to squeeze club championships in at the end of the year, time will tell. County football, for me, is probably a no-go this year.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football