GAA Football

Tyrone semi-final preparations 'severely hampered' by Covid chaos admits ex-Red Hand coach Kevin Madden

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
Neil Loughran

TYRONE’S preparation for their postponed All-Ireland semi-final showdown with Kerry will be “severely hampered” by the Covid chaos that has ripped through the panel, according to former Red Hand coach Kevin Madden.

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.

As a result, the GAA yesterday confirmed that the game, due to take place at Croke Park on Sunday, had been postponed until Saturday, August 21 – although Tyrone are believed to have initially requested a longer delay.

The All-Ireland final, scheduled for August 29, will instead take place on Saturday, September 4 (time TBC), the date originally allocated in the event of a drawn decider. It is also the day before the All-Ireland senior hurling decider between Cork and Limerick.

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.

“On this occasion, it looks like the odds are well and truly stacked in favour of Peter Keane’s men - but until we know more facts and see the Tyrone starting team, I wouldn’t be writing off their chances just yet.”

The reality is that the Red Hands were already going in as heavy underdogs against a formidable Kerry side, especially in light of the Kingdom’s 18-point National League demolition of their Ulster rivals back in June.

Much has changed since then, however, with that result acting as a catalyst for a rethink of approach that has helped Tyrone to a first provincial triumph since 2017.

Yet even that Ulster final victory over Monaghan 10 days ago was achieved against a backdrop of considerable Covid-related upheaval in the Red Hand ranks, with a number of players ruled out while joint manager Feargal Logan had to watch from home.

Unfortunately for Logan and Brian Dooher, that situation continued to evolve in the days that followed, and GAA officials have remained in regular contact with the Tyrone County Board, making it clear from an early stage that they would not resist any request for a deferment of the fixture.

The entire panel underwent Covid-19 tests over the weekend and, following receipt of the results yesterday, Croke Park was informed that the Red Hands would not be in a position to fulfil the fixture this weekend.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Tyrone County Board said: “We would welcome the decision of the CCCC to postpone the fixture v Kerry for six days.

“We will continue to comply with all guidelines from the PHA and Croke Park, keeping the health of the players and management as our primary concern.”

As for what impact the rearrangement could have on potential crowd capacity on August 21, the GAA has said it will “continue to liaise with the appropriate government departments and officials to discuss the practicalities of having these revised fixtures included under the statutory instrument that has facilitated the increased attendances of recent weeks”.

The All-Ireland U20 final clash between Offaly and Roscommon – conquerors of Ulster champions Down on Saturday night - 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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