Mass gatherings look a non-runner this year, throwing the GAA season into doubt – but is playing matches behind closed doors an option worth exploring? KIERAN McCARTHY asked a few local players and managers for their thoughts
BRIAN HURLEY (CORK & CASTLEHAVEN FOOTBALLER): Ya, I’d be open to it as long as the GAA, the HSE and the Government all gave the all-clear for it. Where I am coming from is that we have been training for more or less six months, I’ve picked up a few small little injuries, and in those six months I’ve played ten minutes of football. The more games, the better, but obviously it has to be safe to do so. I think it could work okay for a while at inter-county level, they could televise the games and people at home could watch, especially the elderly. But at club level, I don’t know how it would work. So, ya, I’d play behind closed doors. I’d play in the back garden, I’d play against myself if I could. I’d definitely be open to it - but it would have to get the green light from the health side first.
COLM AHERNE (CLONAKILTY SENIOR FOOTBALL MANAGER): Personally, I can’t see that happening, not until a vaccine is found. Everyone is missing the GAA, everyone would love to be back playing but it needs to be medically safe to do so – and right now, you can’t take that risk. This is a close contact sport. I can’t see how feasible it would be to play without a vaccine. To be honest, I wouldn’t feel comfortable either until we have a vaccine. We would all go and watch a junior C match on a windy Tuesday night in Ahiohill now, but I just can’t see it. There are questions then about how behind closed doors would work in terms of social distancing, dressing-rooms, etc., but health has to come before all of that.
ÁINE TERRY O’SULLIVAN (CORK & WEST CORK FOOTBALLER): Given the crowds we get at ladies’ games, it probably wouldn’t be as big an issue for us as it would be for the lads. Everyone would love to see some GAA action this summer, but if restrictions stay as they are it’s hard to see 30, 40 players allowed tog off for a match – but if there was a way it could happen, I think players would be delighted. It all depends on what happens the next few weeks. If there was a choice, I think people would take behind-closed-doors sport over having a year with nothing at all
KEVIN O’DRISCOLL (KILMACABEA JUNIOR FOOTBALL MANAGER): I wouldn’t be in favour of games behind closed doors. At inter-county level, a lot of revenue comes through the gate receipts and that will be lost – would county boards make enough to justify the cost of preparation that’s needed at that level? In general, I don’t think players would enjoy it and the experience wouldn’t be the same – the games would be missing one of the most important ingredients: the fans. You wouldn’t have the atmosphere and excitement at games that we are all used to. At club level, how are you going to put 30 fellas into a small dressing-room? I can’t see that happening, given what Simon Harris said last weekend. It looks less and less likely until we have a vaccine.
DIARMUID O’DONOVAN (ST JAMES’ GOALKEEPER): It’s hard enough to train on our own at the moment so I just want to get back playing. It would take from the games not having the fans there, but at the same time you’d love to get back playing. You’d still wonder what will happen because even behind closed doors you’re talking about a lot of people in close contact between players, mentors and so on. If it’s the only option to play games this year, I’d be happy enough to do it anyway.
MARTINA O’BRIEN (CORK & WEST CORK FOOTBALLER): Everyone is in the dark but behind closed doors is looking like the only option at the moment. For me, and these are my own thoughts, it probably wouldn’t be the same championship if that’s the way it went. If you got to an All-Ireland final and you won it with nobody in the stadium, it probably wouldn’t mean as much as when there is a crowd at the game. Also, you want your loved ones there – your family, your friends, your club-mates. It would be something very different if that’s what they feel is the best option this year. If it does happen it might be a totally different experience then what we think it might be. It hasn’t been the norm so it would be very unusual.