GAA Football

Tyrone's Joe McMahon flags up split season concerns

Joe McMahon during his playing days with Tyrone.
Picture Mark Marlow.
Francis Mooney

TYRONE'S Joe McMahon has warned of the possible pitfalls of putting club football first in a 2021 split season.

He fears a tightening of Covid-19 regulations could halt GAA action completely, as club players are not deemed elite athletes.

The GAA has deferred a decision on the format of the new season to consider the merits of holding off on the inter-county competitions until later in the year, when spectators are more likely to be permitted to attend.

But McMahon, a member of Tyrone's new management team, has concerns over moves to push ahead with club football and hurling ahead of the roll-out of a vaccine.

"They need to be very careful. I know there was an announcement today about the vaccine, but seemingly it won't be rolled out until the summertime to everybody.

"If it's the case that you start with the clubs first, and things don't go to plan off the pitch with another lockdown or restrictions put in place…

"Club footballers aren't deemed as elite athletes in comparison to the county players.

"That's something that the fixtures people and the GAA as a whole will have to weigh up.

"I can appreciate and understand why they want to allow county football to happen later in the year, if it means bringing the crowds.

"For obvious reasons, the revenue that it generates for the Association as a whole, and how that develops clubs and counties, its important without a doubt."

But the double All-Ireland winner can see the benefits to clubs of having the first part of the year to themselves, not least the luxury of full access to their county players.

"Putting my club hat on, it would be great that the idea of a split season could be happening, because it allows for a club to plan, you're playing with your best players most of the time, and it's great to have that opportunity, as we have seen already.

"But whatever happens, we will be ready for it, and it's something that we look forward to."

McMahon revealed that Fermanagh manager Ryan McMenamin gave him his blessing when he informed him that he was to leave the Erne set-up to take up a position with Tyrone.

"When I did receive the phone call about the possibility of joining Tyrone, for obvious reasons I was very excited, and I was deeply humbled because as a young lad your ambitions are to play with your county.

"And now I'm in a position to be able to help in developing these lads from a coaching point of view and allow them to develop and excel hopefully.

"The conversation was to be had with Ricey. I spoke with Ricey and he gave me his blessing.

"He gave the opportunity initially to come and join him initially and get the experience of working with Fermanagh, with himself and Paul McIver, and the group of players within Fermanagh.

"Despite results not going our way, I enjoyed the experience of working at that level, and I have a lot to thank those people for, for all that they did to help me develop as a coach as well.

"The Fermanagh county board were very supportive in my decision, they understood that it was the home county calling, and they didn't resent my decision at all.

"They wished me well, so I have deep respect for those people.

"To come back and work in your own county is a privilege really."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football