GAA Football

Rory Gallagher: Counties already preparing for next year - anything in 2020 will be a bonus

Rory Gallagher says Derry's focus is to work on the physical development of their squad during this lockdown period. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Neil Loughran

DERRY boss Rory Gallagher believes “an awful lot of counties” are already preparing for next year’s Championship - despite the GAA confirming plans for the return of inter-county action in October.

A GAA statement on Wednesday outlined the Association’s intention to hold club and inter-county championships this year, with that announcement coming amid growing fears the rest of the year could be written off as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Gallagher insists he was always “very hopeful” football would resume in 2020, but feels many have already turned their attention to the 2021 campaign.

“Realistically, there’s an awful lot of counties will almost be looking towards next year and getting ready for that, and if you get this year it’ll be a bonus,” said the Fermanagh native.

“From our point of view, we’ve a number of young players and the key focus now is gaining size and strength. They’ll not be pulled to college football, club football, county training where they’re running and burning up a lot of energy… we’re using this as a massive opportunity for our squad to make inroads physically.

“There’s four or five Slaughtneil players who needed a break, others doing rehab and then players trying to physically push on, so that’s been our focus.

“I would be very hopeful, I’d love to think club and county players would get the opportunity to play Championship. But if it’s not to be, there’s nothing you can do.”

Also in Wednesday’s statement, counties were asked to suspend all activity until July 20, with training allowed resume at club level after that date, providing officials are satisfied that it is safe to do so.

Wexford boss Davy Fitzgerald expressed disappointment that GAA grounds would remain closed for the forseeable future, and felt it would have been good for the wellbeing of players to reconvene in small groups with proper social distancing in place.

Gallagher, though, says it is understandable that the GAA is treading cautiously.

“It’s exactly as you’d have expected,” he said of the Association’s statement.

“People are looking for answers from the GAA and it’s impossible for them to give them. Too many people were too quick to want to call a halt to it – I don’t think anybody, anywhere wants anybody put at risk, but if there’s an opportunity to play football at any stage this year, we’d all love to take it.

“It’s not so bad for the likes of myself involved in management, but when you’re a player, injury-free, maybe over 27, 28, you don’t want to lose any years off your career.”

The GAA also said there was “lack of appetite” for games to be played behind closed doors, but again Gallagher feels this potential situation has to be viewed in the context of the current situation.

“If the golf goes ahead in America at some stage with no spectators, I know I’ll be at home watching that. We’d all be glued to it.

“If it can done safely, and the Premier League can be done safely… don’t get me wrong, no player or management wants to play behind closed doors but if it’s the only option, so be it.

“We’re all fed up talking about these unprecedented times, we all want to stay safe but we all want to go to football, the kids want to play football. I haven’t a clue medically what is around the corner, but I would hope we could all be in a position where we could get out and twist and argue and compete with each other.

“Players love playing football - they just want to get out, but more time is needed. There’s more knowledge being gained on this virus and how well we can deal with it.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football