For want of something better to be doing, I’ve just updated the fixtures tab here on the blog with details of the revised dates for the two matches we’ve left to play in the League as well as the fixtures we’re scheduled to play in both the Connacht Senior and Minor Championships.
There’s an air of unreality to all this, of course, not least given the rising Covid levels in recent weeks and this evening’s news that the Level 3 restrictions are being expanded at midnight beyond Dublin to include Donegal as well. Despite this, the return of inter-county action is now drawing near.
In our case, of course, we’re set to be pitched straight into a Division One relegation avoider against Galway at Pearse Stadium. The Tribesmen were riding high in the top tier this spring while we made a very poor fist of defending the title we’d won in thrilling fashion the previous year, having won just one match in this campaign, drawing one and losing the other three.
Defeat to Galway in three weeks time would relegate us so our return to play comes in a game in which there’s plenty to play for. A win there for us would, needless to say, do wonders for the team’s confidence, as well as giving us a decent shot of retaining our top tier status when we face Tyrone in Round 7 the following weekend.
Then, the weekend after that, we’re due to take on Leitrim in the Connacht SFC quarter-final. It’s old-style Championship football this year, with every tie a knockout fixture and added frisson coming with the stricture that all matches must be decided on the day.
If we survive that one we’re due to face Connacht champions Roscommon in the semi-final. Seeing as the penultimate round is as far as we’ve managed to get in the Connacht Championship every year since 2016, I don’t think there’s any point talking about further prospective Championship ties beyond that one.
To be honest, I’m not quite sure why I’m talking about any of this at all. The Championship might go ahead this year – now that the money has been found to fund county teams so that games can be played with no more than a few hundred punters in attendance – but the virus may yet have the final say there.
If it does proceed as is now scheduled then the reality is that most of us will only get to see the action on TV or online. Every Championship game this winter (for it will be winter by the time it gets going) is set to be either broadcast or streamed live – Irish Examiner report on that here.
At one level, I think it’s true that all of us could do with the distraction that a return to inter-county action would undoubtedly provide. It’s going to be a bloody long, uncertain winter and everyone could do with a bit of levity in their lives over the next while. Wall-to-wall Championship action in November and December would certainly provide that.
And yet. When the virus first struck earlier this year it became quickly apparent that all unnecessary activities had to cease, including live sports events. We’ve come a long way back in the direction of normality since then but, as the long dark nights return once more and the Covid numbers are on the rise again, that longed-for world of business as usual is looking more distant again.
Will there even be a Championship this year? That’s the question GAA people have been asking themselves since March and, while the current fixture schedule ordains that we will, in truth we’re still none the wiser in seeking an answer on that point, even as the dates for competitive inter-county matches approach steadily.