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The GAA showed great leadership in coronavirus pandemic, says Tyrone coach Kevin Madden



Patient outlook: Tyrone coach Kevin Madden is awaiting his first taste of Championship action with the Red Hands

Patient outlook: Tyrone coach Kevin Madden is awaiting his first taste of Championship action with the Red Hands

�INPHO/Lorraine O'Sullivan

Mickey Harte

Mickey Harte

�INPHO/Declan Roughan

Patient outlook: Tyrone coach Kevin Madden is awaiting his first taste of Championship action with the Red Hands

Former Antrim footballer Kevin Madden is having to exercise patience as he ponders what he believes will be one of the most important missions of his sporting career.

The Casements, Portglenone clubman joined Mickey Harte's Tyrone management team towards the end of last year and since then has remained strongly focused on helping to nurture the Red Hands' fortunes.

But the onset of the coronavirus has not only disrupted Tyrone's bid to reach the Allianz League final but could yet see their eagerly-awaited Ulster Championship meeting with title holders Donegal put into abeyance.

Madden, who rendered outstanding service to Antrim as a free-scoring forward until he brought the curtain down on his career in 2009, is now coming to terms with the fact that the Championship season as such is likely to be rescheduled, thus imposing additional pressure on players in what could prove to be a restricted time-frame.

Tyrone's recent win over Dublin in the Allianz League served to further galvanise their followers but almost immediately GAA chiefs pulled down the shutters as the coronavirus began to bite.

While disappointed that the Red Hands were halted in mid-stride and currently face into a Championship void, Madden applauds the decision to shut up shop even though it means a delay in fulfilling his coaching role with Harte's men for the first time at provincial level - something that he relishes.

"I think the GAA actually showed great leadership in becoming one of the first organisations in the country to call a halt to its activities in the interests of people's wellbeing," insisted Madden.

"It did not do things by half-measure and I admire that. It was a very wise decision and I haven't heard of any club, county or grouping within any code under the banner of the Association that has defied the ban in any way."

But Madden nonetheless insists that the GAA has been "unbelievably optimistic" in opting for April 19 - Sunday week - as a possible date for the resumption of fixtures.

"I think that even talking about fixtures utterly pales into insignificance when you hear mention of flattening the curve and a possible second wave of the coronavirus," stated Madden.

"To me the whole scenario is scary and that's putting it mildly. I know the GAA top brass meant well when they arrived at their decision in relation to Sunday week but they maybe have been unbelievably optimistic."

Madden spent two years as assistant to Derry boss Damian Cassidy and at club level worked with former Antrim manager Liam Bradley at Glenullin, winning a Derry Championship title in 2007.

He also coached Derry club Dungiven and managed Kickhams Creggan to the 2017 Antrim Senior Football Championship final.

Madden's insatiable desire for action and his dedication to the Tyrone cause are still palpable but he stresses that he is trying to maintain a sense of perspective as the days go by.

"We all have been so used to looking forward to the next match, then reading the newspaper reports on it and discussing and dissecting it," pointed out Madden. "But for now there are much more serious issues to occupy all our minds."

Yet Madden is convinced that it's in trying to look ahead and plan for what they might undertake when the coronavirus subsides that is comforting people.

"You have to try and be positive. Everyone will have their own goal and while I would just love to see Tyrone taking on Donegal sooner rather than later, it is my fervent hope that the vast army of fans who follow both teams will be spared to attend and enjoy the game," he added.

Meanwhile, Tyrone Under-21 football captain Antoine Fox remains hopeful that his team will in time get the opportunity to perform at Croke Park.

The Red Hand young guns were scheduled to meet Dublin in the All-Ireland semi-final at Headquarters on St Patrick's Day but the game fell victim to the GAA shutdown.

Fox, a dynamic centre-half-back who has led the team by fine example to date this year, still believes that the game can go ahead at Headquarters in tandem with the other semi between Kerry and Galway.

"Croke Park is where we want to be playing our football," insisted Fox. "While it was great to get over Donegal in the Ulster final at Clones, it would be even better to taste action at Croke Park. You want to be playing against the best teams and in my book they don't come any better than Dublin at this level."

Having retained the Ulster title, Tyrone are particularly keen to get their hands on the All-Ireland crown for what would be the first time.

"We have dug deep in games to date including the Ulster final and the fact that substitutes have come on and done well for us has helped to take us to where we are now," pointed out Fox.

"I feel we have good depth in our squad and this has been standing to us. We all keep pushing each other both in training and in games and this is what is helping to get us over the line."

Belfast Telegraph