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'My mother would normally structure her weekend around the games. You wouldn't see her at home'

Kilkenny hurler Eoin Murphy talks about the return of crowds to sporting events.

KILKENNY GOALKEEPER EOIN Murphy disagreed with the decision to hold sporting events behind closed doors, but is relieved to see restrictions being eased ahead of this weekend’s round of games.

eoin-murphy Kilkenny goalkeeper Eoin Murphy. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

From tomorrow, 200 spectators will be allowed into venues which would usually have the capacity to host crowds of 5,000 or more. This follows a Government announcement of its Living with Covid’ plan, which puts Ireland in Level Two in terms of restrictions.

Murphy’s club Glenmore are contesting the semi-finals of the Kilkenny intermediate hurling championship this weekend.

They face Lisdowney in the final-four tie in UPMC Nowlan Park as part of a double-header with the other semi-final between Thomastown and St Lachtain’s. 

The venue can hold almost 28,000 spectators, meaning that it more than meets the requirement to permit 200 fans to attend the games.

“It will be the start of returning to normal,” says Murphy, who plays at centre-back for his club.

“But in those stadiums, like Croke Park or Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Semple – with only a percentage allowed in, it will be a bit unusual. I just think everybody across the board is just delighted that there is going to be some form of championship.

“There’s obviously a lot of responsibility on inter-county players, teams and managements and boards that guidelines are adhered to and no-one’s going to be foolish about it either.”

Murphy adds that the news provides a welcome boost for GAA fans around the country, including his mother who normally packs a lot of games into her weekends.

eoin-murphy Murphy clearing the danger for Kilkenny in last year's All-Ireland final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

However, there is an onus on everyone to behave responsibly and ensure that crowds can continue to attend sporting events going forward.

I know with my own mother,” says Murphy, “normally at this time of year she structures her whole weekend around the games. You wouldn’t see her at home. You’d have a better chance to see her at a match, to be honest.

“She’d go to three on a Saturday and three on a Sunday. And that’s her whole weekend, so she was finding it quite hard. But that’s not just my own mother, there’s hundreds and thousands of people across the country who are in the exact same boat.

“I suppose from a social aspect, it is great that people will start to get out and get to see games.

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“We have to put into context, what has been going on and stuff like that. You’d be mindful of what could potentially happen if somebody does get a positive case. You just have to be really careful with who you’re mixing with outside of it.”

Due to the pandemic, the GAA opted to completely reformat the season this year, running off the club competitions ahead of the inter-county action.

The revamp has satisfied the wishes of many who felt that the club was being undervalued in recent years.

The change meant many of the club games were showcased on television while others were streamed online, a service which became all the more significant when fans were prohibited from attending the matches. 

It’s likely that this switch-up will only be a temporary measure and that the old fixture timetable will return next year, with the inter-county season taking priority.

Murphy believes that a split-season like the one we have experienced this year is worth pursuing, provided that it is implemented properly.

“I definitely think something has to be done between the seasons,” he begins.

“I just think the club has to be given a proper chance. It’s not about just setting aside one month in April. Let’s be honest about it, I just don’t think that works. We were getting in three games last year over three weekends in April.

“We were given a two-week lead-in from the end of the league. So if you made the latter stages of the league, semi-finals, finals or whatever, so that normally went to the last weekend, second last weekend in March. So we got a two-week block of training with the clubs, then three weeks in a row.

But I just don’t think setting aside a five-week window for clubs was fair to be honest. I just think they need to be given proper consideration. I think it’s worked, this is probably the best scenario that the season is split in two. Then it has to be monitored properly.

“I think if you could have your club scene at the start of the year until June or July or whatever month, I think then it would build up into the intercounty season. Everybody would have a taste for it then. The way the current format has run this year would be great.”

Eoin Muprhy has teamed up with Avonmore Protein Gold in advance of the start of the 2020 Football and Hurling All-Ireland Championships. Murphy was representing the Gaelic Players Association, of whom along with the GAA, Avonmore Protein Milk are a long-standing supporter.

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