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We all crave clarity but we can't have it

'Mayday' call for sign of life is too early as the GAA grapples with uncertainty

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Photo: SPORTSFILE

Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Photo: SPORTSFILE

Liam Cahill is an eminently quotable guy - we know this much from reading his weekend comments in The Sunday Independent. The Waterford hurling boss summed up the frustration of the imprisoned Gael in this sport-free universe as "like having a new car and you can't get to drive it."

Cahill is in his first year at the helm, which doubtless amplifies his impatience, wondering if he'll ever get to prepare his adopted Deise for the 2020 championship.

"I definitely think after the announcement on May 5 that the GAA will have to come out with some sort of a statement for the sanity of everybody involved - both at club and county," the Tipp man said. "And in particular the county player who at the moment is like a caged animal, he is training like mad and he doesn't know when he's going to be let loose."

Cahill likened himself to "an oul dog" in need of a bone "to be thrown from the GAA, to give me some bit of a fecking lift. They really need to come with something on May 5 or before it. Because if they don't the players and managers will call it, that's what'll happen. If they don't give us some direction by the fifth of May, I would definitely be one to petition to scrap the championship."

Deaf ears

Cahill's impassioned plea, we suspect, will fall on deaf ears. There will be no clarity from Croke Park on or before that tantalising D-Day next Tuesday ... because, quite frankly, there can't be.

Covid-19 is not going away any week soon, and the grim reality for all GAA stakeholders - stir-crazy players and managers, cold-turkey fans, anxious officials and addled accountants - is that there is only one thing certain about the 2020 season: uncertainty itself.

There can be no revised championship start dates, however tentative, when the Irish roll call of new coronavirus cases and the grim daily audit of Covid-related deaths remain at current levels.

There may well be a (presumably quite small) minority of Irish people who actually believe the lockdown can be magicked away on May 5. That Leo will press a switch and we can all go back to normal the following day.

Most of us realise it won't be like that. Such is the precarious public health scenario that, if restrictions are eased, it will be in incremental stages.

And the resumption of full- blooded contact sport watched by capacity crowds is hovering near the bottom of that return-to-normality wish-list.

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FRUSTRATED: Waterford hurling manager Liam Cahill. Photo: SPORTSFILE

FRUSTRATED: Waterford hurling manager Liam Cahill. Photo: SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

FRUSTRATED: Waterford hurling manager Liam Cahill. Photo: SPORTSFILE

John Horan was keen to stress this new reality yesterday. The first objective of his interview on RTÉ's Today with Seán O'Rourke show appears to have been to rubbish weekend speculation that plans were afoot for a resumption of collective inter-county training at some unspecified date.

The GAA president was "quite shocked" at stories suggesting the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport had been preparing plans to test all inter-county players on a regular basis, thus allowing them to resume training at some point this summer.

After weeks of mounting pessimism about the prospects for a 2020 championship, this beguiling possibility had injected fresh hope that it could yet happen, later in the year, if even behind closed doors.

Aghast

The only trouble, according to Horan, is that the GAA itself was not in on this plan. "We are regularly in contact with Government departments and at no stage have we discussed a return to training with any Government department. I am aghast as to where this story is coming from," he declared.

Over the past week, ever since the Government essentially banned public gatherings of over 5,000 until the start of September at the earliest, there have been multiple mixed messages about what this means for the GAA.

In fairness, most of this hasn't been Croke Park's fault.

Yesterday's RTÉ interview was important because it gave Horan the platform to stress a few salient points: that the Association will be "totally responsible" and always guided by the health authorities; that he "can't see contact sport coming on board in the short term"; that an amateur sport cannot "cocoon" its players from mixing with family and work colleagues, and the GAA won't be putting any of those people "at risk" just for the sake of playing games; and finally that, whenever it is safe to resume playing, "the club scene will be our priority".

None of that negates the importance of the GAA's flagship inter-county championships; they are its financial engine.

But if those 2020 championships cannot be completed until 2021, so be it.

In the meantime, we'll all just have to live with the uncertainty.