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Why Ulster GAA may take a big hit if Allianz League is scrapped, explains McEniff

 

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On hold: Tyrone’s Liam Rafferty in action against Dublin last month

On hold: Tyrone’s Liam Rafferty in action against Dublin last month

On hold: Tyrone’s Liam Rafferty in action against Dublin last month

A concerted drive is under way to smooth the path for what could prove to be a far-reaching fixtures overhaul for the remainder of the year because of the coronavirus crisis.

GAA Director General Tom Ryan took soundings from county board secretaries across the country on Tuesday and it is expected that he will now be in touch with treasurers prior to hosting a teleconference with chairmen.

Earlier this month, the Association set this Sunday as the potential date for a resumption of on-field action following the imposition of a blanket ban but an extension of the current hiatus is certain.

The Tyrone county board was the first body to confirm that no GAA activity would be taking place under its auspices there in April and now that counties such as Louth, Dublin, Limerick, Tipperary and Westmeath have followed their example, it does not leave GAA chiefs with much choice but to further defer a return to the playing of games.

The immediate poser facing GAA chiefs is whether or not to complete the Allianz Football and Hurling Leagues and the indications are that both these competitions could be declared null and void.

This would have an adverse impact on Ulster, according to former Donegal All-Ireland winning manager Brian McEniff.

"When you look at it, Ulster could yet have five teams in Division One next season which would be a great representation for the province," he says.

"You have Donegal, Tyrone and Monaghan looking relatively safe there already and they could be joined by Armagh and Cavan. And then you have Down looking capable of making it into Division Two and Antrim with their sights on taking the step up into Division Three.

"Obviously a couple of counties have relegation fears but the positives outweigh the negatives."

It is believed that money already raised from league games to date is set to be distributed so as to provide a cash flow for county boards.

With only a limited time-frame to work within as things stand - which could become even more truncated should the coronavirus crisis worsen - the Central Competitions Control Committee will certainly have its work cut out in amending the fixtures itinerary.

There are already strident calls for the revival of a straight knock-out All-Ireland football championship and the postponement of the launch of the inaugural Tier Two (Tailteann Cup) competition until next year.

Ulster Council chief executive officer Brian McAvoy is among those who believe that the Tailteann Cup may have to be put in cold storage for a little longer.

"I would say that given the current circumstances and the situation into which we are facing there is less likelihood of it taking place," points out McAvoy.

It may well be, too, that the Association will leave it until later in the year to complete the Allianz Leagues.

Armagh county board chairman Michael Savage pulls no punches in his assessment of the current impasse.

"We are in a limbo situation no matter how you look at it," says the Clady man.

"This is a serious crisis but the health and safety of our players, officials and supporters and the whole population of Ireland is paramount. Those in charge of our fixtures have been lumbered with a big task and deserve support."

While a scaled-down straight knock-out All-Ireland Championship would certainly mean considerably less income for the GAA bearing in mind that the lucrative Super 8s and All-Ireland Qualifiers would fall by the wayside, this might nevertheless be the only option relative to the time available for completion of the competition.

It has been pointed out, though, that if a number of teams were to be involved in less championship games, this could ease the financial burden on their county boards.

It is estimated that at peak championship time it can cost between €10,000 and €15,000 a week to run a county team and it is felt, if the span of the season were to be reduced, savings could be made.

There is also the feeling abroad that fans will be particularly keen to flock to see matches again although this is tempered by a belief that it could be a little way down the line yet.

Belfast Telegraph