INTERESTING may not be the right word, worrying may be more appropriate – but we will have to watch closely this weekend at the teams that are known to have had Coivd outbreaks. Will their athletic ability be the same? Will the players have recovered properly? What will the energy levels be like? This is new for the world, and we don’t know the full impacts. Here’s hoping all our athletes have shaken off the problems and are really good to go when play resumes on Saturday.
IT’S farcial – Fermanagh are expected to play a league match against Clare this weekend even though 10 of their players have been struck down by Covid while a further seven have been forced into self-isolation. The match is of critical importance as they are in the relegation zone with two games to go, and understandably they have lodged a request to the GAA requesting that the game is postponed. The GAA, at the time of writing, doesn’t seem to be for moving, and it seems desperately unfair in the circumstances. The obvious point to make is that they’d be treated differently if they were one of the major counties, and even Kerry fans, perish the thought, should be feeling sympathy for Ryan McMenamin at this point in time.
SHANE McGuigan told me this week that all he cares about is teaching and playing football and hurling. That’s it. So when lockdown hit, and both those pursuits were stopped, he had an existential crisis. He went on to say that he was glad that the GAA pushed on and got games going. Even if they play behind closed doors, he doesn’t mind. This adds another layer to the debate about why players want to play. There are guys out there who say that they want to play for the crowd, and what’s the point if they can’t get a cheer when they score? Certainly the peformances might even be better if players know they are going to get wolf-whistled at if they score, or guldered at on their misses. I’ve said this before. The GAA’s foundation is not the inter-county game. That’s merely the carnival to get people into the tent. The Association’s foundation is the club game, where participation is more important than attendace.
DESPITE being one of the top teams in the country, Tyrone are coming in a little under the radar as intercounty football resumes. It’s unclear whether Mickey Harte has brought in any new players after what was a fantastic club championship in the county. Conor McKenna is in, but we don’t know how he’s adjusting to the ol’ Gaelic, and while we’ve heard Cathal McShane is definitely out for the rest of the year, it’s hard to be certain of that as well. One thing’s for sure – Harte will be eyeing up a lash at the All-Ireland, even if they face a do-or-die clash against Donegal in the first round of the championship.
THE weaknesses in the National Hurling League structure have been highlighted this year. This weekend three Ulster teams are playing for the chance to get promotion. They must win to do so. County players and managers feel that they will improve dramatically if they can only play at the highest level possible. However, it feels as though the hurdles to do that are too great for the hurlers. While the footballers only have to finish in the top two out of eight. The hurlers have to reach the top two, and then win a final. To the outsider one might conclude that the hurlers want to make sure the best teams stay up and the weaker teams stay down. Is that helping hurling?
ANTRIM is on a high following the Casement Park news, and now it’s time for their footballers and hurlers to take advantage of the good will. Lenny Harbinson’s side travel to Wickow on Saturday afternoon knowing a win would have them on the verge of promotion. The hurlers, meanwhile, face Kerry in their big league final. What a week this could be for the Saffron county. This county needs bigger things, and hopefully by the time Casement arrives, Belfast will be ready to welcome some top counties.