| 7.6°C Belfast

Major decisions have to be made but GAA must remain patient: Harbinson



Lenny Harbinson

Lenny Harbinson

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Lenny Harbinson

Several Ulster teams are bracing themselves for disappointment should GAA chiefs decide to terminate the current Allianz Football League competition when they meet shortly to re-draw the remainder of this year's national fixtures calendar.

And there is also the possibility that, depending on how long the current fixtures shutdown lasts, there may be a more truncated All-Ireland Championship, with the launch of the Tailteann Cup (Tier Two) perhaps put on hold to next season.

Should the decision be taken to cancel promotion in the league, then as things stand, Armagh, Down and Antrim could lose out as they are in very promising positions, while Fermanagh will have cause for relief as they are rooted to the bottom of Division Two.

With teams at all levels inactive just now, managers are pondering what they see as possible avenues that might be open to the Croke Park authorities in terms of restructuring the remainder of the annual fixtures programme.

Antrim boss Lenny Harbinson has taken his side to the cusp of promotion from Division Four, but acknowledges that tough decisions may have to be made.

"It could be that the league will be declared null and void or it might be decided to play the remaining two rounds of fixtures within, say, a ten-day window," states Harbinson, "And we could see a reduced All-Ireland series, which might not feature the qualifiers.

"There is also the question of what to do about the Tailteann Cup - yes, there are major decisions to be made but we must be patient.

"The GAA can hold its head high because of the manner in which it has responded to the coronavirus crisis and I have no doubt that the right decisions will be taken in relation to the remainder of our fixtures programme for this year."

The various provincial championships are likely to go ahead, providing of course the situation improves appreciably and the coronavirus threat recedes, while it remains to be seen if time is on the side of the fixture-planners in finalising the Super 8s.

"I think that in one sense, those charged with re-scheduling the fixtures might have to turn back the clock and return to a more straightforward straight knock-out championship that could be completed within what is likely to be a limited time-frame," adds Harbinson.

The current health crisis is one of the biggest problems that the GAA has faced into for many decades and given that the grave fear which has enveloped the entire country is unlikely to be erased in the immediate future, sport in general will be forced on to the back burner.

Nevertheless, the Central Competitions Control Committee will undoubtedly bid to accommodate the major competitions as best as it can, while at the same time trying to look after the interests of clubs - a difficult task indeed.

And while it seems certain that the March 29 date initially set for a possible return to GAA action will be extended, the Tyrone county board has certainly lost no time in nailing its colours to the mast.

The board has already issued a statement confirming that no games or other related activity will take place in the county until the end of April.

The All-County League is scheduled to take centre stage given that April is designated as a 'club only' front, with inter-county fare put on the back burner but there will be no club games in Tyrone.

County chairman, Michael Kerr, believes that the Red Hand county can give a lead in extending the suspension of normal activity and stresses that with so many people under considerable pressure just now, a further deferral of GAA activity is appropriate in the circumstances.

"We are in an unprecedented situation with people's health and indeed lives at stake and this being the case, we feel it right to put things on hold for another month at least," says Kerr.

Belfast Telegraph