'There is a growing anti-GAA feeling among the public, I believe. There's people saying to me Terry, are you crazy?'
Allianz National Football League Division Three: Down v Leitrim (today, 4pm, Pairc Esler, live on GAAGO)
DOWN named their team for today’s crucial Division Three date clash in Newry at around lunchtime yesterday, but there remains a big TBC beside Leitrim because boss Terry Hyland isn’t totally sure yet who he is going to have at his disposal.
This is likely to be the case for several counties across Ireland as the inter-county season resumes under a cloud of national concern, following days of escalating restrictions on both sides of the border.
“There is worry over the travelling part, we have concern in our camp with guys with close contacts,” said Hyland, whose side need a win to have any chance of avoiding the drop back down to Division Four.
“Every hour the thing is changing, that’s the problem. I could get three phone calls today saying ‘I’m close contact, I can’t travel’, and then you just have to deal with that.”
The Cavan man makes no bones about it – he doesn’t believe this weekend’s games should be going ahead, and fears a public backlash against the GAA as a consequence.
“It’s crazy,” said the former Breffni boss, whose panel will set off from different destinations this morning.
“You hear players asking are we doing the right thing; maybe if that commentary had started earlier in the week things would be different, but there is a growing anti-GAA feeling among the public, I believe. There’s people saying to me ‘Terry, are you crazy?’
“In Cavan here we’re told you can’t even visit your father or your mother but it’s quite safe for 40 people to hop in cars and drive here, there and everywhere, play a football match and then come home.
“We’ll be down numbers, and I’ve said to the players I will back them 100 per cent whatever they decide. If you make a decision that you’re not going to travel, it’s the right decision. You play football for 10 years, then football forgets you very quickly, but you still have home and work and all those things.
“I know fellas whose work are saying ‘you’re going down to a hotspot to play football, and then you’re coming back in here as an employee the next morning?’
“The fear is not with the player themselves, their fear is for their parents and their grandparents. To me, the sensible thing to do would just be to park the bus and do the thing when we can do it.
“Fair enough, play the Championship, everybody’s working within their own provinces, it’s a one off game, 50 per cent of the teams are gone on day one, another 50 per cent on day two and so on.
“What might happen now is that, by running the National League, they could actually end up losing the Championship altogether.”
With promotion from Division Three - and avoiding playing in the tier two Tailteann Cup next year - within touching distance, Paddy Tally has named a strong starting 15, even in the absence of injured captain Darren O’Hagan.
Caolan Mooney returns to county colours, Ryan McAleenan starts having earlier in the summer indicated his intention to step away from the county scene, while Patrick Murdock is named at full-back after starring for Warrenpoint in the championship.
The Mournemen should have more than enough to get the job done in these most strange of circumstances.
Down: R Burns; G Collins, P Murdock, R McAleenan; D Guinness, P Fegan, S Fegan; J Flynn, C Poland; B O’Hagan, C Mooney, L Kerr; C Doherty, J Johnston, D O’Hare