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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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‘Golf is open to everyone’ – Doherty enjoying success on disabled golf tour

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by Adam Moynihan

Former mayor of Killarney Tom Doherty says awareness around disabilities is “springing forward” as sporting bodies, businesses and communities strive to become more inclusive.

Doherty, who suffered a spinal injury when he was 15 and now walks with the assistance of a cane, is witnessing this trend first-hand as a member of Ireland’s flourishing disabled golf scene.

The Killarney native recently took part in the Disabled and Inclusive Golf Association of Ireland outing at Slieve Russell Golf Club in Cavan before flying out to England for a European Disability Golf Association tour event at Stoneleigh Deer Park Golf Club. Doherty claimed first place in the stableford category at the Royal Leamington venue.

He is now looking forward to the inaugural Irish Open for golfers with a disability, which will take place in Roganstown Country Club in Dublin at the beginning of July.

“Golf Ireland are doing a lot of work behind the scenes for inclusivity, which is great,” Doherty told the Killarney Advertiser. “They’re putting a lot of time into it.

“Clubs are opening up and people are getting more educated about disabilities and access. If you can help someone to overcome whatever barriers they have, golf is open to everyone.”

Golfers with visual impairment, cerebral palsy, spinal injuries and those who are amputees all compete on the Irish circuit.

“There’s specialised equipment out there,” Doherty explains. “A person who is a full-time wheelchair user can get a specially designed ‘Paragolfer’ machine that is fully adaptable, and that can carry them around specifically on a golf course. It will raise the golfer, according to the level of their disability, to take their shot, and away they go.

“There are special rules for golfers with certain disabilities – for example if a bunker is a certain size and their buggy is too big for it, they’ll get a drop. Still under penalty. A bad shot is still a bad shot!”

The former town councillor, who now works with the HSE, has been a disabilities advocate for many years and he has noticed a major cultural shift in recent times in particular.

“It’s great to see awareness and opportunities and education really springing forward now. It’s very exciting.

“It has been happening for a number of years but now it’s really blossoming.”

Visibility is a big part of this, Doherty insists, and local Paralympian Jordan Lee from the Killarney Valley club has been an important figure in this regard.

“I was actually competing the same day Jordan did his first official high jump (Doherty has represented Ireland in the discus, javelin and shot putt – he has also played basketball with the Kingdom Wheel Blasters and the Limerick Celtics).

“Jordan has turned into a big hero for kids, and a big brand name and an ambassador. At the end of the day, 17% of people have a disability. It’s a specific market but it’s a lot of people, and I think brands and industry are realising this more and more. And a lot of larger companies are becoming more connected to the community, which is a great thing.

“The kids look up to Jordan and, when it comes down to it, he’s another Irish athlete who gives it his all.

“Take the ‘dis’ out of ‘disability’ and you have ‘ability’. At first, young people might look at Jordan and say, ‘look, daddy, he’s got one arm’. But then eventually they go, ‘that’s Jordan the athlete, look how high he can jump’.

“Visibility is a huge thing. That’s the name of the game.”

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Lough Lein anglers enjoy annual charity day 

It’s always a popular event, and Sunday was no different for the members of the Lough Lein Anglers Association. The Killarney club, one of the longest established fishing clubs in Ireland, […]

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It’s always a popular event, and Sunday was no different for the members of the Lough Lein Anglers Association.

The Killarney club, one of the longest established fishing clubs in Ireland, held their 34th annual charity open fly fishing competition known simply as ‘The Charity’.

It’s part of the angling tradition in the club and is always the most popular event on the fly fishing calendar in Ireland.

Spearheaded by Timo O’Sullivan, to date the anglers have raised in excess of €229,000 for deserving charities in Kerry and Cork. The main sponsor of the event is Lee Strand Co-op, Tralee.

This year’s deserving beneficiaries are the Kerry Hospice Foundation and The Saoirse Foundation – BUMBLEance.

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