Since the decision was made back in June to push the resumption of inter-county action back to the final quarter of the year, there hasn’t been a whole load of speculation about whether or not it might even be feasible for county teams to take to the field again before the year is out. In recent days, though, the focus has started to turn to this subject and the prognosis that’s emerging isn’t a positive one.
It’s significant that the gloomy predictions about the chances of staging the inter-county Championships this year are coming from within the GAA itself. John Fogarty in today’s Irish Examiner (here) reports on a Central Council meeting held remotely yesterday where the association’s top brass said that the chances of the Championships going ahead had “disimproved” since the revised fixtures plan was published less than two months ago.
This sanguine assessment chimes with what John Prenty said recently. Speaking with Mike Finnerty for a piece in this week’s Mayo News (here) the Connacht Council Secretary rated the chances of the Championships going ahead this winter as “50:50 at best”.
Prenty also laid out in fairly stark terms the financial costs facing counties once they resume collective training, as they’re scheduled to do in a month’s time. With each training session costing €10,000 on average to hold, counties are going to face hard choices about what they can fund and to what extent in the months ahead, in particular in a situation where large-scale attendances at matches continue to be prohibited.
In all likelihood, the current restrictions on mass gathering aren’t going to change any time soon. With the push to get the schools back open and with renewed localised spikes of the virus a constant ongoing threat, it’s very possible that the measures in place now will still be there by the time the Championships are due to get underway.
The almost complete loss in gate receipt revenue will obviously be a hammer-blow for counties up and down the country, placing many of them in an impossible position from a financial point of view. In the opinion of Kevin McStay, speaking with RTÉ (here), this situation may force some counties to opt out of inter-county activity completely this year.
If that starts to happen, it’s difficult to see how the integrity of the Championships can be preserved. At some point, the GAA may itself be forced to recognise that its plans for resumed inter-county action in 2020 are no longer tenable.
That point hasn’t been reached yet and there’s still hope that it might not be. But the window is narrowing rapidly and the coming weeks will tell a lot about whether or not the Championships will go ahead at all this year.