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Ex-prez O'Neill calls for clarity

Then GAA President Liam O'Neill speaking the 2015 GAA Congress at the Slieve Russell Hotel, Cavan. INPHO/ANDREW PATON

By P.J. Cunningham

A leading GAA county official has sounded an optimistic note that there could be a return to football and hurling at both club and county level by the end of 2020, while a former president is saying more clarity about this year’s plans would help Gaelic sports going into next year.

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With the amelioration taking giant steps following a virtual two-month lockdown, Longford GAA board secretary Peter O’Reilly believes there is a real chance of a “gentle re-opening” if the country does not suffer a negative reaction during the Stage 1 of the government’s return to the new normal.

“I think the club scene could restart sometime in the late summer and we might have the intercounty championship in November,” he declared.

On more mundane matter, the full-time secretary believes that the pandemic will have serious consequences for every county due to the financial situation the GAA now finds itself in with no income from gates.

“It is going to create some severe issues over this 12 months but I think the even bigger problem is how do we manage to start up next year because whatever resources we will have, we will have used them all up by then.

“I think you are going to find that a lot of county boards will be cash-strapped by the end of this year, so what funds do we use to get started up next year?” he asked.

Meanwhile ex-GAA president Liam O’Neill wants the association to use the shutdown period to adapt a new approach to kickstart competitions again.

Speaking on RTE, the Laois native said: “In some ways, if there are no games this year, you would almost want someone to come out now and just shout: ‘Stop everything!’

“You could get some real clarity then. If that happened, you could take six months of a complete pause and redirect all the energies and resources into making the GAA strategically sharper when we resume playing,” he claimed.

O’Neill pinpointed the first place for clarity as between club versus county fixtures, second and third level competitions. He also stated that as has been seen during the Covid-19 crisis, the use of technology should be increasingly used to conduct GAA meetings.

On broader subjects, he stressed that the time was now right to encourage more youth and female representation across the GAA. Towards this end, he called for the GAA, camogie and ladies football associations to subsume into one umbrella organization.

His vision is that we should use this time almost as if the GAA was starting out again. “For the first time in our history, we have a chance to start from scratch and improve certain things,” he said.

“Look at the glitches in our Association. We can resume stronger when the time comes. We will be even more relevant when that happens. Because we will have looked after our people and addressed our problems,” he added.