So, we called it right and now finally there is light at the end of the tunnel.
In previous blogs I predicted a winter All-Ireland, which was confirmed by John Horan and the GAA last week. Finer details have to be confirmed, but with the opening of pitches GAA players and supporters can breathed a sigh of relief.
When something is taken away from you, to then get it back there is no better feeling and training will certainly come easier for players up and down the country. Going forward it is vital that players and management teams adhere to Government and GAA protocols. We can then pray there is not a second wave.
Can you imagine the reality of a Winter All-Ireland Final and the excitement it will create?
Certainly, it is a huge boost to the country and hopefully ends what has been a terrible year on a high for everyone. Let’s be honest, we would have taken this situation with both hands a few weeks back.
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Looking at it from an intercounty point of view for players and managers alike it will bring its own challenges. In my time as a player the start of the year was tricky when you return to your clubs after a National League campaign with the county.
Generally, you played a couple of championship games with the club. These games were crucial for your club to keep everyone interested in what was a long summer, but also a worry for the county players not to pick up an injury.
That scenario is now flipped, and county players will see out the respective club championships before a return to the intercounty scene in October. The recent announcement is a tight period in terms of time and any injury could prove a disaster for both player and management teams.
Players obviously will try to put that to the back of their minds, but managers will certainly have their fingers crossed.
County management will also have concerns about the level their county players are playing with their clubs. For example, a senior club team like Ballyhale Shamrocks (in Kilkenny) are as close as you will see to an intercounty set up, and that’s fine in terms of the speed and quality of the training and matches for county players.
However, there are players on junior and Intermediate club teams and their preparation may fall behind in terms of intercounty standard.
The dual club will also have a big strain on the county panelist and I can certainly see plenty of potential injury concerns going forward, especially when intercounty training returns.
A little bit of caution – but that said Davy Fitzgerald will be on the sidelines when action resumes #thesundaygame #rtegaa pic.twitter.com/4S9JkDzLoh
— The Sunday Game (@TheSundayGame) June 7, 2020
The recent Sunday Game programmes have been fantastic and in last week’s show it was refreshing to hear Davy Fitzgerald. He made it clear that this year is not about winning but getting back playing and it was a great point.
Davy is better placed than most as he is also looking after his own club Sixmilebridge and will be aware of the problems that may arise. He also made it clear that certain players may opt out depending on family situations and that has to be admired.
It is also important that county management allow players to fully focus on their club in the time frame allocated for club championships.
Wexford are a big player in this year’s Championship, and it will be interesting if Davy is as relaxed come November.
County Boards are busy putting together revised Championship structures for the club scene and some counties are ahead of the rest, with Wexford and Kilkenny going with four groups of three clubs.
Other counties will need to speed up the decision making as this will have a big bearing on getting things done in time. While there is also the possibility of some counties streaming the games live, which would be fantastic for all GAA fans.
While everything is generally positive, one final point to make is that there is clarity needed from John Horan and the GAA in relation to the structure of the Championship in terms of format.
Obviously, it will be knockout but will there be a back door?
Also, it requires clarity in terms of the likelihood of the championship running into 2021.The sooner the better for players and management they know the exact time frame involved and if there is the possibility of a winter break.
A lot of questions have yet to be answered, but one thing is for sure. We are nearly there.
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