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‘GAA should pull the plug on intercounty season’

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Killarney Advertiser columnist Eamonn Fitzgerald says the GAA should postpone the intercounty football and hurling championships due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis

 

Call them off now. Better late than never.

I feel that the GAA at national level should call off all intercounty football and hurling games, foregoing the 2020 championships, and let the Sam Maguire and the McCarthy cups rest this year.

The fall-out from COVID-19 is far too serious, with the number of cases and, more sadly, deaths increasing daily. Last Saturday there were 1,000 cases reported. No country worldwide and, indeed, no person is immune to this deadly virus.

We have never seen anything like it before. I spoke to my oldest cousin in the Bronx as early as St Patrick’s Day and she said she never endured anything like this abnormality, even though she is 101 years old (and thankfully in great health) and went through several emergencies such as World War I and 9/11.

DILEMMA

I appreciate the dilemma for organisations such as the GAA, wishing that their games and competitions should go ahead, a godsend for active players, management teams and supporters. It is good for the mental health of all, irrespective of age.

On the initial re-opening, I was all in favour of going ahead with the club scene from juvenile right through to adult players, but to let 2020 be devoted exclusively for the club and colleges games and competitions. That would have provided an easily prepared road map for these competitions right up to December.

It would also facilitate the running of club competitions right up to the All-Ireland club stage. Colleges’ games could have been played up to All-Ireland final stage. Furthermore, local football games administrators would have far more weekends available to stage competitions. The East Kerry Board would relish that prospect, instead of trying to run off its many competitions too quickly. As it is the O’Donoghue Cup, its premier competition, will not be concluding until 2021.

We surely have learned one thing from COVID-19: the GAA should have separate seasons for club and intercounty. What a joy it was to see county players welcomed back home to train and play with the colleagues who grew up with them from under six. The elite players will eventually return to their clubs when they finish their intercounty careers – now they will be back where they should be.

PULL THE PLUG

I say that the GAA should pull the plug on the remaining two games of the NFL and the entire 2020 championships. Postpone them. I’m sure the Dubs would settle for a postponement, but not a cancellation. A record breaking six-in-a-row is too inviting.

Presently, the Fermanagh football team are in limbo, isolating after eight of their players tested positive for the virus. Do they forfeit the vital away match to Clare this weekend and their Ulster Championship fixture in a few weeks’ time? God forbid, what if players from glamorous teams such as Kerry and Dublin in football and Kilkenny in hurling are hit by the virus? Will the GAA then be forced to close down?

Postpone the 2020 intercounty competitions. Yes, be that clinical. Lives are at risk and there are many examples of precedents for this action. Let’s look at the early years of the All-Ireland senior football series for instance.

In the first year of the All-Ireland SFC, in 1887, Limerick beat Louth 1-4 to 0-3 in the All-Ireland final. No problem. In 1888, the championship went unfinished. The GAA committee travelled to the USA to promote the games abroad and raise money.

In 1903, Kerry won their first All-Ireland title and they played matches over three years to get there. After numerous delays and rematches, the third ‘home’ final against Kildare was eventually played in October 1905, and the overall championship was sealed when they defeated London in November.

The 1904 and 1905 finals were played in 1906, the 1906 final was played in 1907 and the 1907 final was played in 1908.

In 1910, Kerry refused to travel to Dublin for the final against Louth because the Great Western Railway (pre-dating CIE and Irish Rail) would not sell tickets to their supporters at reduced rates.

And the 1916 championship experienced several delays stemming from players’ involvement in revolutionary activities.

TOMORROW

Look at the dangers of Kerry travelling all the ways up to Monaghan today (Friday) individually by car, certainly not in close proximity by bus and the resultant cost incurring with travel expenses and hotels/meals. The virus is rampant in the six counties and Monaghan is very close to the border. So too is Donegal, a hot spot for COVID-19, and they are due to travel down to play Kerry in Tralee next week.

One week later, Kerry are away to Cork in the Munster Championship semi-final.

The All-Ireland final is fixed for December 20. If Kerry get there, how many supporters would be willing to travel in bad weather, shortened days and when everything suggests that the pandemic will still be with us as we prepare for year’s end?

The most likely scenario is that the final would be staged behind closed doors. The risks of carrying infection are too high a price to pay for staging these games. The U20 footballers’, whose All-Ireland semi-final v Galway is also tomorrow, and the hurler’s, who must play Antrim in their league final, face the same dilemma.

It is estimated that it would cost the GAA €18 million to stage their championships and the government has already pledged a nice sum to the GAA to run them off. Why incur that expense to later be asking a beleaguered government for a sizeable bailout?

We saw enough of that with the bailout of the FAI, emanating from the John Delaney rip-off and other unacceptable and unsustainable accounting practices by the association’s council.

I don’t agree with the government allowing games for elite players to continue. The recent Irish international soccer matches should not have gone ahead and the Irish team should not have been allowed to travel to another country, running the real risk of importing the virus. The damage was done on the outward airline journey to Bratislava. Players Connolly and Idah did not sit in their designated seats, and were less than two metres away from an FAI official who subsequently tested positive. Irish manager Stephen Kenny had to pull both players from his intended first 11.

The GAA caters for the biggest cohort of sports players and supporters in Ireland. Its members did a wonderful job in the first lockdown (as did other sporting and community organisations), serving communities so well. They can show the way in this second wave by pulling the plug on all games for the rest of 2020.

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Ireland’s newest and toughest cycle will be a thrilling challenge

Ireland’s newest cycling event comes to Kenmare this month with an exciting and challenging course for the experienced cyclist. Already attracting attention within cycling communities around the country, Velo Kenmare […]

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Ireland’s newest cycling event comes to Kenmare this month with an exciting and challenging course for the experienced cyclist.

Already attracting attention within cycling communities around the country, Velo Kenmare will tackle some of Kerry’s toughest climbs and highest mountain passes.

Taking place on October 22, Velo Kenmare is an 135km timed loop route starting and finishing in Kenmare. The total climbing distance is 1,650m, and organisers hope to appeal to serious cyclists who are looking for a new and thrilling challenge.

No stranger to cycling events, Velo Kenmare is being managed by Elite Events Management, who also successfully deliver iconic cycling events Wicklow 200, Ride Dingle and the Ring of Beara Cycle.
Cyclists are encouraged to register for Velo Kenmare on the Velo Cycle Ireland website www.velocycleireland.ie but places are limited for the enjoyment and safety of all participants, and anyone interested is urged to sign up soon as places are filling up.

TOUGH CLIMBS

​​​​The tough enough mountain climbs are over Molls Gap, Ballaghbeama Pass, Ballaghasheen and Coomakista. The route will take in breathtaking scenery Kenmare is famous for, and incorporating some of the most stunning parts of the Wild Atlantic Way and Ring of Kerry. It is hoped visitors to the cycle event will be encouraged to stay for a few days, and will all be given €20 vouchers or ‘Velo Dollars’ to spend in local shops which will be redeemable against goods and services in Kenmare.

Riders will be allotted a time slot to allow for a staggered start, taking them along a fully marshalled route, with medical cover, bike mechanic support, and hot food and entertainment at the finish in Kenmare.

Making its mark, Velo Kenmare participant race packs will come inside a yellow Velo Kenmare water bottle and finishers’ medals are in the shape of a yellow cow bell. Prizes will be awarded for the quickest top three male and top three female finishers, and fastest male and female will be awarded the title of King and Queen of the Kerry Mountains.

Experienced cyclists are encouraged to take on this exciting new challenge, testing themselves and their clubmates for the fastest finish across these four gruelling climbs, through some of the most beautiful landscape in the country for the best welcome back at the finish.

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It’s tip-off time for new-look Lakers

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National League Division 1

Scotts Lakers v Limerick Sport Eagles

Saturday at 7.30pm

Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre

The 2022/23 National League tips off on Saturday evening and the Scotts Lakers will be hoping to get their campaign off to a flyer at home to the Limerick Sport Eagles.

The Lakers narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last time around, mainly due to a disappointing start to the season. Playing their first four home games at alternative venues probably didn’t help; the Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre was being used as a makeshift vaccination centre at the time. That’s all ancient history now, thankfully.

With that in mind, a fast start will be a priority, beginning with the visit of the Eagles this weekend.

ROSTER

It’s always difficult to tell until at least a few matches have been played but head coach Jarlath Lee appears to have made some good moves during the off-season.

Godwin Boahen will be missed but Dutch point guard Esebio Strijdhaftig has come in as a replacement, and Ukrainian big man Dmytro Berozkin – all 6’10” of him – has also come on board.

American shooter Eric Cooper Jr’s time here was brief; he has moved on already with Indiana native Jack Ferguson filling his shoes. Just like former laker Seán O’Brien, Ferguson played college ball with Colgate University.

The Lakers have retained the services of Portuguese player Rui Saravia, a skilled passer who has settled in nicely.

Just as essential as the imports are the local players who make up the majority of the squad. Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke are important figures in the squad, although their involvement is likely to be curtailed by football commitments for the time being.

Youngsters Jamie O’Sullivan, Senan O’Leary and David Gleeson could well see more game time this season after exhibiting great promise in 2021/22, and other St Paul’s graduates like Mark Sheahan, Jack O’Sullivan and Eoin Carroll will also play their part.

A player to keep a close eye on is Ronan Collins, a Gneeveguilla native who has represented Ireland with distinction at underage level.

The club will be hoping for a healthy turnout for their season opener.

Meanwhile, the Lakers’ crosstown rivals the Killarney Cougars have an away fixture to get things started. They take on SETU Carlow (formerly IT Carlow) at the Barrow Centre on Saturday evening.

WOMEN’S LEAGUE

The St Paul’s women’s team (who are back in the National League for the first time since 2012) are also ready for their opening match of the new campaign. They travel to Kilkenny to take on the Marble City Hawks on Saturday at 7pm.

The team is managed by well-known local coach James Fleming and will be backboned by Killarney players like Lynn Jones, Rheanne O’Shea, Cassandra Buckley and current Ireland U16 international Leah McMahon.

Canadian Sophia Paska (formerly of the Limerick Celtics) and American Yuleska Ramirez Tejeda (ex-Limerick Sport Huskies) will add some recent league experience to the squad.

Paul’s first home game of the 2022/23 season will come next Saturday, October 8 against the Celtics.

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