Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Logistical Nightmare Awaits GAA

Posted on 27 March 2020 by Muireann Duffy

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Founded in 1884, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), has witnessed many challenging times. 

Through times of war, both at home and further afield, crippling financial crises and mass emigration, the cornerstone of Irish life remained ever-present.

But the threat we now face is unprecedented and the GAA is being forced to adapt to a situation that it has no road map for.

The GAA season, for both Gaelic Football and Hurling, entails league and championship fixtures at club and county level- all of which have been put on hold until April 19 at the earliest.

The club league season overlaps with the end of the National Leagues, while the club championship season overlaps with the end of the All-Ireland Championships.

Because of this set up, club and county league fixtures have been axed under the current Covid-19 measures and the All-Ireland Football and Hurling Championships, the GAA’s crowning glory, have been called into question.

Despite cancelling the first round of matches in the All-Ireland Football Championship, which were due to be played in early May, GAA director of club, player and games administration, Feargal McGill says the Championships should be able to go ahead, with some tweaks, if play resumes by mid-June.

This would keep them on schedule to hold the All-Ireland finals as planned, with the Hurling on August 16 and the Football on August 30.

Getting the show back on the road by this time seems less and less likely as the days go by. Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan pointed out during a press conference this week that Ireland was still only in the very early stages of the pandemic.

HSE Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan points to where Ireland is currently on the Covid-19 pandemic curve. Image: RTÉ

Mr McGill also said that the GAA are eager to see out the National Leagues, which had two rounds of group stages remaining, in order to facilitate the promotion and relegation of teams in those competitions.

This also seems unlikely and may cause problems later in the season. If the county league fixtures are rescheduled for after the culmination of the All-Ireland Championships, they’ll clash with the club championships which won’t go down well.

A logistical nightmare awaits the GAA, who are surely hoping that people will be understanding, given the circumstances.

One aspect of the disruptions that the GAA does not have to contend with, unlike other sports, such as Soccer or Rugby, is the matter of players wages, seeing as the GAA is completely amateur.

While it may not always feel like it, sport is not life or death, but the situation we find ourselves in now most definitely is.

Rescheduling matches is meaningless when the number of people dying of the coronavirus is climbing every day.

The GAA has put the organisation on the frontline of this health crisis, allowing Croke Park, the GAA’s national stadium, to be used as a drive-thru testing centre. 

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GAA clubs all around the country have been volunteering in their local areas, delivering food to vulnerable people and high-profile players have got in on the act, urging people to follow government guidelines to stay at home.

While the country braces itself for one of the biggest health crises since the foundation of the State, the resumption of GAA will be a light at the end of the tunnel for many people.

The GAA has weathered many storms and this will be no different.