Any more delays and GAA club season should start first, says Kerr

Any more delays and GAA club season should start first, says Kerr
By Francis Mooney


By Francis Mooney

Last summer’s unforgettable festival of championship football will live long in the memory of Tyrone GAA enthusiasts.

And the prospects of a repeat of the 2020 club season are growing amid a Covid-19 fixtures crisis.

The GAA has opted for a split season once again, this time with inter-county action going first, followed by the club competitions later in the year.

But a shock directive that gaelic games activity will not begin until April at the earliest has sparked calls for a reversal of the schedule.

Tyrone county chairman Michael Kerr believes that if continuing Covid-19 restrictions delay the beginning of the inter-county season beyond the end of April, the club campaign should go first.

“If it goes beyond the end of April, the clubs would need to be started,” said Kerr.

“But it has to be done in a safe environment. That has to be stressed, that it has to be safe.

“If we’re saving lives by not training and participating, anybody with an ounce of community spirit will understand exactly why.

“We’re a community organisation and we’re part of the community, and protecting our community at this stage is more important than playing games.

“But we will get our games back.”

The news from the GAA in a letter to county chairmen that gaelic games action will not begin until after Easter, along with news of the removal of elite status from inter-county GAA under Level 5 Covid restrictions, took everyone by surprise.

“I think it came as a shock to everybody that that’s where we are,” the Tyrone chairman added.

He stressed the importance of ensuring that the clubs get to play this year, and in doing so will provide football for one hundred per cent of the playing population, including inter-county players, so no-one would be left out.

The inter-county game caters for just a tiny percentage of the playing cohort.

“We would get a bigger hit of our participation, in fact every player will get to play, because every county player is a club player.

“In that situation, everybody will get out, and everybody needs to be out. To me it makes common sense.

“The club season will have to be protected, and county players will be available to their clubs.”

Kerr issued a warning that club action would not be sustainable if pushed deep into the winter months.

He pointed to the condition of pitches in winter, along with the absence of floodlights at most grounds, in flagging up the difficulties associated with delays to the club season.

“We’ll always get good enough pitches in September, October November time for county football, but that’s not the case for clubs.

“If club is played in the middle of the summer, then there are weekday nights when matches can be played.

“And if the inter-county season is extended into that period, we would lose all of those available fixture nights.

“So instead of getting one game a week, we would get two games per week, and it would make it a more meaningful programme, even though it would have to be in a condensed time-frame.

“The health of our club fixtures programme is important, and keeping participation at as high a level as possible.”

And the Tyrone chairman believes that inter-county managers could benefit from watching players operate in a club environment in making squad selection decisions.

“The upside of the club season coming first is that they would get an opportunity to see all the players within the county in their club environment.

“It would make their job of selecting a panel easier.

“They have been handed a job, and there have been no competitive games since and they haven’t had the opportunity to view players.”

Full GAA coverage in this week's Tyrone Courier

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