GAA need to ensure level playing field for counties' supporters says Breffni boss
THE GAA must ensure there is a level playing field when it comes to supporters allowed inside grounds by the time the Ulster Championships comes around, insists Cavan boss Mickey Graham.
Earlier this week the Association confirmed that 500 spectators will be permitted to attend National League games in the north from this weekend, with 100 of those split equally between non-playing players and county officials from both sides.
However, that does not apply to Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, in line with current public health advice in the Republic of Ireland as cross border travel for non-essential reasons remains discouraged.
Indeed, it is understood that Monaghan and Donegal have asked for an increase on their 50 ticket allocation, making their feelings known to Croke Park.
That situation will be reviewed at the end of the League but, as trial events with spectators are not expected to take place in the Republic until late June or early July, that is cutting it fine with the Ulster Championship getting under way around the same time.
Should the current rules still apply, there would be only Tyrone supporters at their provincial opener against Cavan in Omagh on the weekend of July 10/11, with only Down supporters allowed to attend the Ulster preliminary round clash against Donegal in Newry on June 26/27.
And Graham believes contingency plans need to be put in place.
“The GAA will have to look at that because it wouldn't be very fair for one team to have three or four thousand supporters, or whatever it is by then, and the other to have none,” said former Cavan Gaels forward, who led the Breffnimen to a first Anglo-Celt Cup since 1997 last November.
“You have to look at trying to make it a level playing field, but by the time July comes you'd be hoping the vaccinations down south will be well ramped up and I'm sure the GAA will come up with a reasonable solution.”
Before then, though, Graham's focus is on the League and tomorrow's Division Three North date with Ulster rivals Derry.
Rory Gallagher's Oak Leafs have been hugely impressive in the two games so far, defeating Longford by 16 before finishing with 19 to spare against Fermanagh – conquerors of Cavan on the opening weekend – last Saturday.
And Graham is well aware of the size of challenge facing his men.
“You have to give great credit to Rory and his management team for making sure the lads hit the ground running.
“Obviously they have been putting in great work by themselves, Rory's in his second year in charge now and he's probably just getting stamping his style of play on them and seeing the effects of it.
“They're not picking up too many injuries either, that's huge, and winning breeds confidence. You can see they're playing with confidence and belief.
“They've put up big scores in their last two games so we need to be really ready and prepared for what they're going to bring. They're the form team in Division Three, probably favourites for the Division Three title at this stage.
“They were unlucky not to get promoted last year, I'm sure that was probably their main goal coming into this campaign and if that's the case, they've really gone the right way about it.”