GAA Football

President Horan wanted to lower expectations on GAA return says Monaghan boss Seamus McEnaney

Monaghan boss Seamus McEnaney remains hopeful that there will be a return to action later this year - despite comments from GAA president John Horan casting doubt on a potential return to play. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

MONAGHAN boss Seamus McEnaney believes GAA president John Horan was attempting to “put a dampener” on hopes of a return to action in 2020 in his weekend interview.

Appearing on The Sunday Game just days after the GAA released a statement detailing plans to hold club and inter-county championships this year, Horan claimed he “can’t see it happening” if social distancing policies remain in place.

"If social distancing is a priority to deal with this pandemic,” he said, “I don't know how we can play a contact sport, and that is what Gaelic games is.”

McEnaney, who returned to the Farney hotseat last Septemner as successor to Malachy O’Rourke, takes a more optimistic view and remains hopeful that the club and county scenes will resume in time for Championships to be held this year.

“I think John Horan’s ambition on Sunday night was to put a dampener on any possibility or any hope of playing football in 2020. If that was his ambition, to lower expectations, he succeeded,” said the Corduff man.

“I would have a lot more hope than that. The Irish government and the Irish health service have done a tremendous job in flattening the curve, and deadening the curve nearly.

“I would be hopeful that the risk could be abated by the time they’re talking about if we keep suppressing the numbers. You’re down to very small numbers of cases every day in Ireland; it’s decreasing. The trend that it’s on, we could be at zero by July. If we were, then that risk is gone. I’m hoping we have a chance, and maybe the gun was pulled too early here.

“To be fair to John, his comments were in relation to if social distancing was still in place. He was very specific about that. It was maybe just a case of being cautious and careful rather than anything else.”

Also on Sunday night, Horan appeared to rule out any prospect of completing the 2020 National Leagues.

Monaghan had enjoyed a decent Division One campaign heading towards the final two games, defeating Tyrone and Mayo as well as drawing with Dublin, but McEnaney agrees with Horan that the Championship now has to be the priority.

“That’s a no-brainer for the GAA,” he said.

“We need to all go back to where we were on the first of January and start again next spring. What will hopefully be possible is two months of club football, two months of county football.”

Last weekend should have seen McEnaney lead out his native county on a big Ulster Championship Sunday for the first time in a decade, having seen his previous six year spell in charge of the Farneymen come to an end in 2010.

That May 10 clash with neighbours Cavan in Clones had been ringed in the calendar since the draw was made, and McEnaney admits it was tough to see that date pass with no football played.

“I miss the players, the camaraderie in the dressing room, the craic before training, after training - sometimes even during training - and last Sunday was the most difficult day I’ve had since I came back into the Monaghan job.

“We were happy with the progress the team was making, we were happy we had got the bit back between our teeth and we were back playing the way we like to see Monaghan playing.

“The first thing you get as Monaghan manager is every single player who is capable of playing inter-county football playing with you. That’s a huge thing.

“So we were happy with where we were at, albeit we had loads to improve on.”

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