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Waiting game: Down boss Paddy Tally is keen to see the way paved for his team’s last two league ties

Waiting game: Down boss Paddy Tally is keen to see the way paved for his team’s last two league ties

�INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Waiting game: Down boss Paddy Tally is keen to see the way paved for his team’s last two league ties

The ongoing coronavirus crisis has not only impacted heavily on the GAA at the highest level to date in terms of the non-playing of games but is threatening to create major financial headaches for clubs and county boards all over the island.

While April 19 has been set as a possible date for a return to playing activity, in the current climate this has to be viewed as wildly optimistic.

Indeed, the popular theory currently doing the rounds is that the Association will be fortunate to benefit from any form of truncated All-Ireland Football and Hurling Championships with subsidiary competitions perhaps shoe-horned into what will be a sparse overall summer fixtures itinerary.

Already club and county officials in Ulster are bracing themselves for what could prove a herculean task in attempting to balance their books, their task rendered unduly difficult by an extremely limited or in some cases non-existent cash flow.

Down chairman John Devaney acknowledges that his board and clubs will be forced to reappraise their financial situations sooner rather than later.

Having reached the Allianz League Division 2B hurling final and thrust themselves into a strong position from which they might gain promotion from Division Three of the Football League, Down officials remain hopeful that success in both codes might be achieved.

Football boss Paddy Tally saw his team miss out on reaching Division Two last year on score difference and would see a second unsuccessful flirtation with promotion as "heartbreaking".

Chairman Devaney accepts that facing into an uncertain future does not help to breed confidence on any front.

"The longer the current lockdown, the greater the chance of restructured competitions and this could of necessity mean fewer games thus ensuring less income," points out Devaney.

"I think it is very important - and not just from a financial perspective - that GAA clubs, which are the heartbeat of many communities here in Ulster, should become very vibrant again when things return to what we would regard as normal.

"Here in Down, we would be particularly disappointed if the two remaining rounds in the Allianz Football League were not played which would deprive us of the chance of getting promotion."

Devaney's Armagh counterpart Michael Savage is in no doubt that counties will be faced with huge problems as this year plays out.

"I would have to say that in Armagh we are not in a bad place financially at the moment but I think that we could be faced with big worries down the road. Income at both inter-county and club level will be greatly reduced and all the time certain expenses have still to be met," pointed out Savage.

Like Down, Antrim also remain hopeful of achieving promotion in both football and hurling assuming the league competitions are completed.

The hurlers are scheduled to meet Kerry in the Division 2A final while Lenny Harbinson's football outfit have still to play Wicklow and Waterford in their bid to reach Division Three.

Antrim county board spokesman Sean Kelly recognises that it might be a tall order to get these matches played.

"The longer the break from playing activity is, then this will create its own difficulties but we can only assess the situation as it is," stated Kelly.

"While we would like to be up and running again, we have to be guided by the Health Service people and the government on this."

Cavan PRO Susan Brady believes that counties should not delay in conducting an overview of their finances.

"I can guarantee that with every county board and club, sponsorship agreements will be under review at the moment. Any impact on sponsorship will be a huge blow for a club or county board," stated Brady.

This week, county boards were also due to receive a proportion of their gate receipts for the Allianz Leagues, believed to be five-figure sums, ahead of schedule. With nothing in the way of revenue being generated, it is expected that they will receive the remainder of those monies later this month.

Loan payments due to higher GAA bodies such as Central Council and the provinces are to be assessed on an individual basis.

Belfast Telegraph