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Coronavirus pandemic is putting GAA in perspective, says Fermanagh boss McMenamin



Long haul: Ryan McMenamin believes the waiting game will go on

Long haul: Ryan McMenamin believes the waiting game will go on

�INPHO/James Crombie

Long haul: Ryan McMenamin believes the waiting game will go on

Fermanagh football boss Ryan McMenamin may find himself on the edge of a sporting precipice right now yet his team's survival is not his all-consuming passion.

With two rounds of the Allianz Football League still to be played - if at all - his side languish at the bottom of the Division Two table knowing that a visit to Clare and a home engagement with Laois may not offer them the safety net that they crave.

Yet Tyrone triple All-Ireland winner McMenamin, having had just over two months on formal sideline duty with the Ernemen, is not only "looking at the bigger picture" as he puts it but is urging his squad to do likewise.

It was when the coronavirus initially threatened to dismantle the GAA fixtures itinerary that McMenamin realised sport was about to take a back seat.

"I never had any doubt that we were in for a very stressful time here in Ireland because I had observed closely what had occurred in countries like Spain and Italy," pointed out McMenamin. "I know that the GAA meant well in first setting March 29 as a return to action date following the initial fixtures shutdown and they were equally well-meaning in setting Sunday week as a new date but this won't happen.

"Sports people by nature like to focus on fixed dates for a number of reasons but in the current climate I just don't think this is possible. We just have to be patient in all the circumstances.

"I'm looking at the bigger picture and don't like what I see. When you learn of people dying and others struggling desperately in hospitals while even more are in self-isolation, all of this certainly puts a few games of football in perspective.

"Sure, we want to stay in Division Two of the league and if we were to achieve this because the competition might be declared null and void as has been suggested then so be it, but I still would have feelings for teams who would be denied the right to the promotion they will believe they have earned."

Fermanagh are due to host Down in the Ulster Championship at Brewster Park, Enniskillen on May 24 but McMenamin candidly admits that he cannot see the competition getting under way next month, with Monaghan and Cavan due to meet in the preliminary round on May 10.

"Obviously there is a great deal of talk about the provincial and All-Ireland Championships but you would have to factor in the club scene as well," insisted McMenamin. "April had been designated as a 'club-only' month but not a ball will have been kicked by the time we get to the start of May, so where does that leave clubs? They are going to be seeking dates wherever they can to get their all-county league games played and that's not going to be easy.

"Don't forget, with the ban on collective training, county squads will need two or three weeks to get into Championship mode. Players may be doing a bit by themselves at the minute but when the ante is upped to Championship level you need to be right on top of your game."

As things stand, a number of counties including Louth, Westmeath, Dublin, Limerick and Tyrone have said that the cessation of activities will include all of April.

For now, GAA chiefs are only committing to the dates advised by the HSE even if there is a growing sense that there will be little meaningful sporting activity of any sort on the island as a whole until late in the summer at the earliest.

The International Rules series between Ireland and Australia which was due to take place on this island in November has already been cancelled and indeed there is a question mark hovering over the future of the competition.

"There is no doubt that the coronavirus crisis could lead to several sporting bodies taking a new look as to how they plan for the future but we are where we are," insisted McMenamin. "Even when sport resumes here it might be on a lesser scale."

Belfast Telegraph