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Poll: Slight majority favour behind-closed-doors option to no matches at all

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A poll carried out by the Killarney Advertiser this week has found that 55% of our readers would rather see the GAA staging senior intercounty matches behind closed doors than cancelling the 2020 championships entirely.

With mass gatherings of over 5,000 people prohibited until September at the earliest as the Irish government attempts to limit the spread of the coronavirus, supporters will not be permitted to attend any major football or hurling matches this summer – if any matches go ahead at all.

The GAA are currently weighing up their options with regards to this year’s championships, which were originally scheduled to begin in the coming weeks before tentatively being pushed back to July. It is believed that playing senior intercounty fixtures in empty stadia is on the table and reaction to that particular prospect has been mixed.

Some eminent GAA personalities, like Kerry and Dr Crokes legend Colm Cooper, have questioned the value of having matches without fans, while others, like Kerry manager Peter Keane, have argued that it would be better than nothing at all.

The results of the Killarney Advertiser survey have confirmed that the local GAA community is also largely divided on this thorny issue, with a small majority leaning towards matches behind closed doors.

CLUB v COUNTY

Interestingly, over three-quarters of our readers believe that if GAA activity is allowed to resume in the near future, the club game should be prioritised over county. A whopping 76% of those polled feel as though club should come first and that smaller, local competitions should take precedence over the provincial and national championships.

For his part, GAA President John Horan has reiterated that club will be the first to get up and running once it is safe to do so as he dismissed “irresponsible” reports that intercounty panels would be permitted to start training again in the coming weeks.

"We're an amateur sport,” he told RTÉ this week. “I know there's a lot of speculation that professional sports like rugby and soccer may come back here in Ireland and overseas, but that's probably in the sense that they've cocooned their players.

"Our amateur athletes, they go back to their families, they go back to their workplace. We can't put any of those people, or those people they come in contact with, at risk just for the sake of playing games. We won't be making any rushed decision on this.

"If and when we do return, the club scene will be our priority because 98% of our activity happens at club level.

"As we're looking at it at the moment, our return initially will be back to club activity before we engage in the intercounty playing."

Horan also revealed that competitions at club and intercounty level could now run into 2021, and that the GAA would be content to see that happen.

"We're open to that if that's a possibility," he said. "We'd just adjust the 2021 season. I think there's a hunger and an appetite out there among both players and spectators to see the games being played.”

OPTIMISM

The outlook in the coming months remains uncertain but despite the doom and gloom, many people are still optimistic that our national sports will return at some stage in 2020.

When asked in our survey, which was carried out online via Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, 57% of our readers said they think that GAA matches will be played at some stage this year, with the remaining 43% fearing that we may have already seen our last bit of GAA action until 2021.

With club activity officially scheduled to resume on May 5, an official announcement from the GAA is expected in the coming days.

 

Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

 

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Fleming and Doherty top Killarney crew at Boggeragh

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The Boggeragh Rallysprint, organised by Cork Motor Club and based in the forest complex of the same name, took place over the Christmas break.

Based near the village of Nad, the event attracted a strong 60-plus car entry and was won by West Cork driver David Guest and his Millstreet co-driver Liam Moynihan in a Ford Fiesta Rally 2. The latter is a member of Killarney and District Motor Club.

The first all-Killarney crew to make the finish were David Fleming and Kieran Doherty in their Honda Civic. The Killarney-based crew finished 20th overall on what was only their second time competing on a gravel rally.

World Rally Championship launch

The new Ford Puma Rally1 Hybrid that Craig Breen and Paul Nagle will drive in this year’s World Rally Championship is set to be unveiled on Saturday in Austria.

The World Rally Championship will undergo major environmental changes this year when new technical regulations drive the series towards a more sustainable future.

The season launch takes place at Red Bull’s headquarters near Salzburg ahead of the first round of the WRC, next week’s Rallye Monte Carlo, as a new era for the sport dawns.

Breen and Nagle will be in attendance and the launch will be live streamed on WRC.com

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Killarney Valley athletes rubbing shoulders with the best

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Killarney Valley AC continued their upward curve last Sunday when they entered men’s and women’s teams in the prestigious National Indoor Track and Field Championships, which were held in Abbotstown in Dublin.

Despite going up against the best of the best in terms of Irish athletics, the Killarney Valley contingent gave a good account of themselves at the state-of-the-art National Indoor Arena, with coaches Tomás Griffin and Con Lynch coming away with plenty of positives to reflect upon.

The women’s team was comprised of Sarah Leahy, Ciara Kennelly, Alison Butler, Grace O’Meara, Ellen Moloney and Melissa Ahern, while the men’s team included Conor Gammell, Oisín Lynch, Kevin O’Callaghan, Sam Griffin, Jason O’Reilly, Dara Looney and Darragh O’Leary.

The nature of the team event presents a number of challenges and opportunities for the forward-thinking club, as coach Tomás Griffin explained to the Killarney Advertiser this week.

“The indoor league is senior elite level so you’re competing against really strong athletes, including some Olympians,” Griffin said. “Part of the criteria is that you try to cover as many of the events as you possibly can within all of the athletic disciplines. You compete as a team, as opposed to normal athletics competitions which are very much based on the individual.

“If you are 16 or you turn 16 in the year of competition, you can participate. That allows us to give our up-and-coming athletes the opportunity to compete as part of a representative team alongside our more established, older athletes.

“There are two rounds with half the events in all disciplines covered in Round 1 and the other half in Round 2. Last week in Round 1 the track events were the 50m sprint, the 200m sprint, and the 800m, along with the 4 x 400m relay. So, for those events alone, you have to have sprinters and you have to have middle distance athletes all stepping up to compete against one representative from all the other clubs.

“The field events were the shot putt, the long jump, and the pole vault. You can see there you’ve got to have a pretty diverse club that is trying to focus on as many disciplines as possible on the development sides of things.”

POINTS

Individual athletes earn points based on where they finish in their event (12 points for first etc.), with points tallied together to make up the team’s overall total. There are 12 clubs vying for the women’s title and 13 fighting for the men’s. After Round 2, which takes place on January 23 in Athlone, the top six clubs will advance to the finals.

The demands that such a competition place on a club mean that it is a major achievement to be able to take part at all. Apart from Killarney Valley, Leevale AC from Cork were the only other club in Munster who fielded a team.

“For us to have enough athletes of that age or above, that are competent enough in their disciplines to be able to represent us and compete – and score – is a significant breakthrough. We scored quite well across some of the events. There were some events that we struggled to cover because we’re still trying to develop the full range, but as a club we know that we need to develop those disciplines.

“And we have some younger athletes who are 13 or 14 and they’re now learning pole vault, for instance. If we can maintain the momentum then we will have pole vaulters in a couple of years’ time.”

ENJOYMENT

Griffin says the Killarney Valley competitors really enjoyed the experience, while also putting in some impressive performances.

“They loved it. The bigger powerhouse clubs have very high-profile athletes at their disposal; there were four Olympians whom our athletes got to compete against and interact with.

“Our own Sarah Leahy did exceptionally well in the 60m sprint. She ran the joint fastest time in the league, a personal best of 7.61 seconds, which is the fastest she has ever run 60m indoors.

“In the men’s 60m sprint, Conor Gammell made the top five and ran a personal best. We also had Sam Griffin, who is normally a long jumper, who ran a personal best of 7.58 seconds. He finished third in his race. Dara Looney, another long jumper who was doubling up on sprints, finished fifth and also had a personal best.

“Melissa Ahern, an up-and coming sprinter, ran 8.43 seconds, and Ellen Moloney, who was a first-timer at this level, ran a personal best as well. We have a good batch of sprinters competing and it’s good to expose them to this level.

“Alison Butler scored some valuable points for us in the 800m, and in the men’s 800 Oisín Lynch ran a massive personal best. Our shot putt thrower Kevin O’Callaghan is new to athletics; he had to throw an adult shot (7.2kg) for the first time and he did well, scoring five points for us. In fact, he threw the heavier weight nearly as far as he had been throwing the lighter weight.”

Griffin was keen to stress the importance of each individual team member to the overall group effort and whatever happens in Round 2, he is convinced that entering the competition will have huge benefits in the long run.

“We set ourselves of goal of having a team at National League level by 2023 so we’re a year ahead in that regard. It shows that we’re on the right trajectory.”

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