A NUMBER of Ulster minor managers have spoken of the disappointment they felt for their players following the postponement of the provincial championships.
Four quarter-finals were down for decision this Saturday but the GAA announced yesterday that, following clarification from the Department of Sport, the minor and u-20 grades were not allowed to continue in the South under current Covid-19 restrictions.
The Antrim u-20 hurlers were still due to face Dublin last night as it was before the midnight deadline, but their minor hurlers have had their Leinster programme pulled
Paddy Kelly’s Antrim were looking forward to welcoming holders Monaghan to Cargin in the football quarter-final this weekend, but they will now not get that opportunity – for the time being anyway – and he said that his players “were in bits.”
“We’re absolutely devastated,” said Kelly. “I woke up to the news and my phone was going steady between the county chairman, the other coaches, parents, players. Everyone is just in shock.
“We have had these lads together for three years and we look at this as three years’ work gone overnight.
“It beggars belief how it was done. There was plenty of time to talk with everyone, to consult with everyone, to give us forewarning.
“We hadn’t played a game since March and we were so looking forward to this game. We were following all the protocols, taking all the precautions. I have my own family and my own business too and I have to think of their safety. So we do everything by the book. Everything.”
Tyrone manager Collie Holmes said that he did see the news coming following the move to Level Five restrictions in the South on Monday, but that it didn’t make it any easier for the players.
“There are bigger things to worry about in the world at the minute but I’m just really disappointed for the lads,” he said.
“They have been fantastic in their efforts all season. From pre-season, when the season started, during lockdown and since their return they have done the lot. It’s just another blow.
“We were adhering to all the precautions from a medical point of view. Our team doctor and physio were guiding us very well.
“We had things in place, two buses for Saturday, outdoor food before it. Only one parent was going to be allowed in per player.
“Everything was going to be safe, everything was controlled. I can understand but chatting to u-20 managements and senior managements, we were doing everything they were doing.
“Call it off a month ago or let it run. The lads, and their parents, have put in so much effort.”
The GAA has said that the competitions are currently postponed, and Holmes is hoping that the players do get the opportunity to play at some stage.
“I would hope that there is some provision put in place because we have some good, tough Tyrone lads and they need to show what they can do. Hopefully they get that chance.
“Three weeks will run off an Ulster Championship and the way football has been condensed this year shows that it’s possible.
“When the world is a healthier place and things are less restrictive, hopefully these lads get their chance to shine.”