President-elect Larry McCarthy, left, with GAA President John Horan. INPHO/TOM O’HANLON
By P.J. Cunningham
This weekend, the GAA will endeavor to leave the “virtual” world of sport behind and plan ahead for a truncated post Covid-19 season for club and counties around the globe.
However, it will be through the mechanism of a virtual Special Congress – being held remotely due to current coronavirus lockdown – where President John Horan will preside over the implementation of sweeping changes which have been made necessary by the curtailment of football and hurling action and the banning of assembly for supporters.
A delegate from each county will take part in this Friday’s conference call and it is expected that collectively they will give the go ahead to the association’s management committee and Central Council to come up with a once-off strategy for the remainder of the season.
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All this is contingent of course upon a let-up in the current situation where it is hoped that the current extension of the lockdown to early next month may allow sufficient time for teams to collectively train and take part in a shortened competitive season.
Alterations to structures in championships normally needs approval at the GAA’s annual Congress which was held two months ago. When required, a Special Congress considers urgent issues which is why this week’s on-line meeting is being held.
It is anticipated that the leagues will almost definitely be abandoned for 2020 while the acknowledgement that the May 9 starting date for champions comes within a week of the hoped-for lifting of the lockdown on May 3, and it too will consequently require significant change.
The logical way to go is to revert either to the old straight knock-out provincial and All-Ireland series or possibly to follow the path of the Centenary Cup in 1984 by having an open draw championship.
Either way, it is almost definite that the new hurling round-robin format will be postponed in 2020, as will the football Super 8 series, which was introduced two seasons ago.
A number of former stars such as Tipperary’s Lar Corbett have made the point that the GAA should not rush to get back into inter-county action and instead give clubs a chance to oil the wheels again.
He believes that this method would help to get the grassroots up and running and pave the way for a late burst of inter-county activity when players get fit to play at that level.
The GPA is also meeting this week via conference call where the views of all county football and hurling representatives will be gathered in connection with how the championships should be redrawn.
Managers such as Cavan’s Mickey Graham in football and Cork’s Kieran Kingston in hurling want this week’s GAA meeting to explain the way ahead.
The Breffni boss is not happy that there has been no directives issued since the close down and feels the time is now apt for Croke Park to signal its intentions for the rest of the season.
Rebel Supremo Kingston is also looking for certainty for his players and would prefer called for squads to be told that a May start “won’t happen now but they need the GAA to tell them that and also to detail what the hopes for this year are.”