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Tyrone 'may not be able to field team for Kerry semi'

The Tyrone management team of Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher have seen considerable Covid-related upheaval in recent weeks - culminating in the postponement of the Red Hands' All-Ireland semi-final clash with Kerry, which had been scheduled to take place on Sunday. Picture by Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney and Neil Loughran

TYRONE may not be in a position to field a team for the All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry on the re-scheduled date of August 21, it emerged last night.

The necessity to adhere to medical guidance around isolation and return to play protocols will prove extremely challenging for Tyrone, with players from the last cohort of Covid cases due to end their isolation just before the clash with the reigning Munster champions and recently installed favourites for the All-Ireland title.

County chairman Michael Kerr revealed that a request for a two-week deferment of the fixture was turned down by GAA chiefs.

And he warned that a difficult decision will have to be taken, which could lead to a withdrawal from the All-Ireland series.

“The welfare of the players is paramount. The management will not be making a decision until this weekend on whether we will be capable of fulfilling the fixture.”

He expressed concern that to fulfil the fixture, as it stands, could be in contravention of return to play protocol and may not be compliant with medical advice.

A ‘Graduated Return to Play Protocol’, agreed by the Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales Institute of Sport, and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, recommends a 17-day gap between end of isolation period and a resumption of normal training.

“This is about player welfare, and it’s clear that our players will not be ready to engage in a high intensity championship game so soon after being directly affected by this virus.”

The Tyrone chairman added: “We are also conscious of the fact that the situation is not an ideal one for Kerry, and the uncertainty creates difficulties for their preparations for this important game.”

Kerr questioned Croke Park’s position on limiting the postponement to one week.

“They have decided that the final should be pushed no further back than Saturday 4th of September, but if something similar was to happen in the meantime to any of the two panels competing in the final, that date would disappear into the twilight as well.

The Tyrone chair reasoned that the effects of Covid-19 and the varying isolation periods required for different squad members makes it impossible to prepare adequately for an All-Ireland semi-final.

“While we appreciate the postponement, which now allows us to be able to field a team, our request to have the match put back until the following weekend would have allowed us to be able to field a team that would be properly prepared and be in a position to do itself justice in an All-Ireland semi-final.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to be able to field, but by the same token, disappointed that Croke Park have not given us sufficient time to prepare a proper challenge for Kerry.”

Kerr pointed to Tyrone’s decision to proceed with participation in the Ulster final despite a number of Covid-related issues as evidence of the county’s desire to behave in a reasonable and responsible manner at all times.

“While we had some positive cases prior to the Monaghan match, we didn’t request a postponement, because we felt we had a panel capable of fulfilling the fixture.

“The only reason we requested a postponement this time was because we definitely could not have fielded this weekend.

“For the following weekend, while technically we have a panel, the preparation will be well short of what is required for a game of this importance and of this level.

“Our ultimate concern here is the health and wellbeing of our players and the wider community during these challenging and unprecedented times.”

Meanwhile, former Red Hand coach Kevin Madden has warned that Tyrone’s preparation for their All-Ireland semi-final will be “severely hampered” by the Covid chaos that has ripped through the panel.

It is understood that up to 20 members of the Tyrone set-up have tested positive for the virus, with several others forced to self-isolate as close contacts of confirmed cases.

Dublin and Mayo go toe-to-toe in the first football semi-final this Saturday night, while the ground has shifted significantly ahead of the Tyrone-Kerry clash.

And Madden, who was part of Mickey Harte’s backroom team last year, believes the impact on the Red Hands’ preparations will play strongly into Kerry hands.

“Whatever the extent of the situation, there is no denying that Tyrone’s preparations are sure to be severely hampered,” wrote the former Antrim forward in an Irish News column today.

“Not only will the on-field training and in-house games be affected, but the hours of face-to-face video work and team meetings that won’t take place is time they will be unable to get back.

“Who knows what the starting team will now be as it is highly unlikely every affected player will be physically and mentally recovered in time. In contrast, Kerry are fully loaded with no injury concerns.”

The All-Ireland U20 final clash between Offaly and Roscommon - will proceed as planned at Croke Park on Sunday. Throw-in is at 1.30pm, with Tyrone referee Sean Hurson the man in the middle.

The GAA has said it will be working with the LGFA regarding the TG4 All-Ireland junior final, which is also scheduled for Croke Park on September 4.

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