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Dublin: 8°C Sunday 25 October 2020
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'This doubt hangs over you constantly': Threat of cancelled season looms large on county return

Dessie Farrell was speaking after Dublin’s win over Meath last night.

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell during the warm-up.
Dublin manager Dessie Farrell during the warm-up.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

INTER-COUNTY ACTION made a welcome return as Division 1 resumed with Dublin-Meath in Parnell Park last night, yet there remains a prevailing sense that the whole thing could be just as quickly taken away in the coming days.

On the back of NPHET’s recommendation to move the country to Level 5 restrictions and Leo Varadkar’s comments that the GAA championship would not continue in such a scenario, the threat of a cancelled season looms large over the games this weekend.

It’s thought that a middle ground between Level 4 and Level 5 will be the most likely outcome when the Cabinet meets to make a decision on Monday, which would hopefully permit inter-county action continue for a few more weeks at least.

It remains a distinct possibility that if cases remain high, the plug will be pulled on the inter-county season. For now, players and managers are committing themselves to a hectic training schedule in the hope the 2020 championship can be completed.

Last night, Dublin boss Dessie Farrell admitted it can be difficult to focus on games when there’s a chance the season won’t be completed.

“Yeah it is,” he said after the 1-20 to 0-19 win over Meath. “But I think players by their nature are resilient anyway. You’ve just got to compartmentalise it and they’re aware of it, it’s in the back of their head.

“They do all that they can to be vigilant to protect themselves and their families and we’re very conscious of that. They’ve been great from that perspective to work with.

“This doubt hangs over you constantly but there’s nothing you can do except embrace it and be grateful for every day you get to come and play a game.

“That uncertainty was out there for sure. I tell ya, it’s a lot better position to be in than we were at the start of lockdown when we thought everything was gone for the year. You just get on with it, make do and embrace what comes your way. We’re just delighted to be back at this stage.”

After watching his Cork side seal promotion from Division 3 by hammering Louth yesterday, Ronan McCarthy said the victory was “anti-climactic” because of the uncertainty about the remainder of the season.

Leitrim’s game against Down in the same division was postponed yesterday because they said “a number of players are awaiting test results and unavailable to travel” resulting in them being unable to field a team.

Down have been awarded a walkover in a similar situation to Fermanagh who were unable to put out a side against Clare due to 10 players testing positive and a further seven being forced to isolate.

The tightened inter-county schedule means there is no room for postponements and if further counties are required to pull out from fixtures, the GAA may decide that continuing the season doesn’t make all that much sense.

Public sentiment appears to be shifting against the inter-county season being completed.

con-ocallaghan-with-david-toner-and-eoin-harkin Con O'Callaghan runs at the Meath defence. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The logic of sending teams into Covid hotspots, particularly in Ulster, is getting harder to justify. If the state of public health continues to worsen then the prospect of the championship being completed decreases by the day.

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“Look, there’s been a lot of doubt with Covid-19, the increased numbers and trajectory of the virus in the last two weeks or so,” continued Farrell. “So it’s always going to give cause for concern, players are no different.

“I’m hoping that this weekend was a success for the GAA, it’s very, very difficult to manage this and the goalposts keep shifting week to week. Please God everyone gets through it well and we’ll be able to look on to next week with some confidence.”

The Na Fianna clubman said no Dublin player expressed their reticence to play out the season and they are well aware of their responsibilities off-the-field in the weeks ahead.

“No, not to me for sure anyway. Look, there’s been a lot of doubt with Covid-19, the increased numbers and trajectory of the virus in the last two weeks or so.

“So it’s always going to give cause for concern, players are no different. I’m hoping that this weekend was a success for the GAA, it’s very, very difficult to manage this and the goalposts keep shifting week to week.

“Please God everyone gets through it well and we’ll be able to look on to next week with some confidence.

“It’s difficult but it’s difficult for everybody. Perhaps it’s slightly accentuated because you’re an inter-county player and you’ve that added responsibility but the behaviours of every citizen in the country are under scrutiny and we’re no different in that regard.”

Moving to on-field matters, Farrell praised Dean Rock after the Ballymun Kickhams ace became Dublin’s leading scorer of all time after scoring 1-8 against the Royals.

“Big night for Dean, he played very well. Obviously his run with Ballymun Kickhams in the championship served him well and he looked sharp which was great.”

Finally, Farrell said Diarmuid Connolly would be a loss but accepted his recent decision to retire from Dublin duty.

“We definitely spoke. It’s the same for all our players. There’s been a number that have left and have decided to move on. We treat each and every one of them the same – if your heart isn’t in it or you think it’s time for you to move on we 100% respect that decision and encourage them to do what’s right by them and follow their heart.

“That’s always important to us as a group. It’s no different in a family, if someone wants to head away or emigrate you have to give them your blessing. That was the case with Diarmuid and he did it with a bit of class as he always does.

“Sure, he’s going to be a loss and there have been other losses but there are also other opportunities for new players, the likes of Cian Murphy tonight who was a great example.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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