GAA Football

GAA roadmap is a big ask for smaller clubs: Antrim ace Michael McCann

In The Irish News' first socially distant sports interview since the pandemic Michael McCann (right) talks to Brendan Crossan about the GAA's roadmap

ANTRIM footballer Michael McCann feels the GAA’s Safe Return to Gaelic Games roadmap will be a big ask for many clubs – and wants the 2020 National Leagues to be concluded before any Championship takes place.

GAA grounds will open their gates on June 29 and players are permitted to train together in small groups of no more than 10 with social distancing still in place.

Clubs will need to appoint Covid19 supervisors to assist with temperature readings while all participants will be asked to fill in questionnaires. Full training and games can resume on July 20 for clubs with a mid-October start-time given for the inter-county season.

“I don’t think Gaelic clubs are set up for it,” said McCann. “It’s okay for professional soccer clubs. You could have clubs from the best to really small clubs: how do the smaller clubs manage this?

“Clubs mightn’t be able to keep up with temperature readings and social distancing [rules].”

The GAA plans to offer training for club officers who are put forward to act as Covid19 supervisors.

McCann, who returned to the county set-up two games before the pandemic brought a halt to GAA activity, fears there is still a lot that could potentially go wrong with the GAA’s well-intentioned roadmap announced last Friday evening.

“I don’t know if we need to pack everything in and rush it all out. You could go back and something mightn’t work and we might have to pull the pin on it again,” said the Erin’s Own Cargin clubman.

“The only reason they’re doing it is because if they don’t have the clubs ran off by August or September it’s never going to happen. So they’re trying to cram it in. Maybe it would be better to just write off the year. And that’s coming from someone who is nearly 35 and I mightn’t be seen again.”

Despite his reservations over the plausibility of the roadmap, McCann feels promotion and relegation issues should be decided in the National Leagues.

With just two rounds of games remaining, Antrim are well placed to gain promotion out of Division Four while there’s a lot riding on the outcome of Down, Derry, Armagh and Fermanagh’s League seasons.

Last week, Antrim captain Declan Lynch intimated he would consider boycotting the Championship if the GAA did not finish the National Leagues.

“Division Three for Antrim is the number one priority for consistency to develop as a team, then you get more buy-in and you bring in younger lads who want to play for the county,” McCann added.

“If Antrim get promoted this year and get knocked out of the Championship in the first round, they would have achieved their main goal. I know Decky won’t mind me saying this, he’s too committed to what he does to boycott it…

“He’s just making the point that the Leagues are the priority. It’s the same for Armagh and Down. If you had those League games leading into a Championship, it would give everything a bit more bite. I just can’t understand why they wouldn’t play the last couple of League games…

“You set out the competition rules at the start of the year and you finish out that competition. If next season’s League has to be cut short, that’s fine. As long as you know the rules that are set out. Next season, don’t play the McKenna Cup and you only play six League games.”

McCann, though, has enjoyed his time away from football – more than he possibly would have anticipated.

“I’ve been training three or four days a week, which is no real change for me. But I’ve taken up golf membership for the first time in my life. So, part of me saw the roadmap coming out and I was actually thinking: 'I’m enjoying my time off and am I ready to go back to all that?' Maybe it’s an age thing.

“Once the club kicks off, you can usually relax for a bit before going to the county, but it’s straight back in with the county. As much as I love my football, I just don’t know whether I’m ready for it – and that’s the truth.

“Two or three months ago when this whole thing kicked off, I was thinking when football comes back I’ll be chomping at the bit as I’m usually obsessed with football.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football