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'Absolutely crazy... counties more than 100km apart should play in neutral venues'

Pat Spillane’s Kerry face a long journey to Monaghan this weekend.

Pat Spillane on sideline duty with the Sunday Game in 2018.
Pat Spillane on sideline duty with the Sunday Game in 2018.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

PAT SPILLANE SAYS it is “absolutely crazy” that teams who are 100 kilometres apart are not playing at neutral venues in the upcoming Allianz Football league games.

The resumption of the GAA inter-county season gets underway this weekend following the enforced Covid-19 break.

The remaining league fixtures will kick-start the football action, with Spillane’s Kerry facing a long journey up to Monaghan for their Division 1 clash. Peter Keane’s side are permitted to travel to that game by bus but Kerry chairman Tim Murphy told the Irish Examiner that they will drive individually instead.

Their other league tie is against Donegal who must face the lengthy drive down to Austin Stack Park on Saturday, 24 October.

Given the current circumstances, Spillane cannot fathom why teams who are more than 100km apart are not playing these league games in neutral venues. 

“It is crazy, it is absolutely crazy,” he begins.

rte-gaa-championship-launch-2020 Tomás Ó Sé, Jacqui Hurley, Donal Óg Cusack and Ger Canning at the launch. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

“Why? We are now in a new normal, we have now decided we are going to play elite sport. We are certainly going to have balance risk and reward so you are going to have look at some of the situations that are challenging.

And one of the areas that was challenging are the distance counties have to travel and it makes absolutely no sense that Kerry have to travel tomorrow to Monaghan individually in cars.

“It makes no sense the following Saturday for Donegal to go the length and breadth of the country. The GAA should have, where the counties are more than 100km apart, should have been played in neutral venues.

“The GAA might argue that you are losing home advantage but you are not losing home advantage because there are no crowds, there is no advantage accruing. I think it is a mistake. 

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“It is absolutely bananas to have lads sit into their cars in Templenoe, to get to Monaghan will be about five hours and that is not right.”

Spillane has taken a critical stance against the Government’s handling of Covid-19 and has said in the past that the approach was too conservative.

In one of his more recent columns for the Irish Independent, he wrote that NPHET has “has become too powerful”.

Although Ireland’s Covid-19 situation has worsened due to an increased number of cases, Spillane still stands by his analysis.

“My argument all along,” the GAA pundit explains, “is that we’re living in a new normal, we’re going to have to balance risk and reward but in the response to Covid, it must be a balanced response that must take into account social implications, economic implications and health implications.

“And health implications, yes, to Covid but what’s a big worry around at the moment is in terms of the diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer and coronary treatment, the whole issue of… and we’re talking about lockdowns and the effect of… mental stress, anxiety, depression.

“As somebody who has been a campaigner for rural for many years, one of the biggest problems in rural areas is loneliness and isolation, depression and isolation and stress levels are bad, are very, very high and they’ve been very high as a result of Covid so my simple thing is that any response must be balanced and taking society, taking economic implications and taking all the overall health implications into focus.”

Pat Spillane was speaking at the launch of RTÉ’s GAA championship coverage.

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