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July race: GAA battling to resume action for the summer

 

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A general picture of Croke Park as Irish sport continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

A general picture of Croke Park as Irish sport continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

A general picture of Croke Park as Irish sport continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

The GAA appears to be facing a race against time to complete its All-Ireland championships in the calendar year.

As Irish sport continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis, Croke Park has confirmed it will be July at the earliest before its flagship senior competitions might commence.

But even this 'best case' scenario is totally reliant on a relaxation of restrictions imposed by the Irish Government in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Responding to the extension of the current 'lockdown' until May 5, a GAA statement conceded: "The senior inter-county championships, scheduled to begin in May, will be postponed until further clarity on the current situation is available.

"However, it is the Association's view that it is highly unlikely these will be rescheduled any time before the beginning of July, at the earliest.

"When sporting activity recommences, the GAA will accommodate both club and county games. The Association also intends to complete the Allianz Leagues, or at least those games that have a bearing on next year's divisions, where possible."

In the event that club games are given the green light first in a phased return, there is the option of running off the inter-county season towards the back end of the year.

To facilitate its contingency planning, the GAA will host a remote Special Congress on Friday. The hierarchy are seeking decision-making flexibility "to allow us vary competition structures, if required, in advance of resuming games".

Last night's statement reiterated that "all of our decisions will be based on the advice of the medical professionals and the government".

Therein lies the crux of Croke Park's dilemma: they can only resume when this public health crisis has abated.

There is a reluctance within the GAA to even consider playing championship matches behind closed doors. But Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan and Health Minister Simon Harris have highlighted the need for social distancing to remain until a vaccine is available, placed a major question mark over mass-attendance sports events for the remainder of 2020.