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Billy Joe Padden: Playing the waiting game

Sport

HANGING OUT Mayo’s Chris Barrett is pictured in action for Clontarf against St Vincent’s Diarmuid Connolly during Saturday evening’s Dublin SFC game at Parnell Park. Pic: Sportsfile

Talking Tactics

Billy Joe Padden

AS the weeks go by the questions around the prospects of a GAA inter-county season being played this year remain the same.  
For what it’s worth, I agreed with most of what John Prenty said in these pages last week.  
Personally, I think it’s unlikely and ‘50-50 at best’ was probably a good estimate from the Connacht GAA Council Secretary. But the reality is that we’ll just have to wait and see.
It’s been the same thing with Covid-19 from day one.
The people in NPHET and Government just have to analyse the data and make the best decisions they can in terms of what’s best for the health of the nation.
And then the GAA just have to follow that lead, as they’ve done all through this pandemic.
But for the moment everyone involved in inter-county squads are working towards a return to collective training in four weeks time. So let’s look at it from that perspective for now.
The fact that the GAA and County Boards are under financial pressure shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. Every sporting body in the world has taken a hit financially since the pandemic hit, and professional athletes and sportspeople have not been immune to the new economic reality either.
Amateur inter-county players will also have to make sacrifices, maybe even more, because they’re reliant on attendances more than TV money or sponsorship. The ordinary decent GAA members voting with their feet and buying match tickets is what keeps the Association going. So with only around 100 paying customers being allowed into club games at the moment, and revenues down across the board, some things that inter-county players have got accustomed to may not be available to them, if this season goes ahead.
Maybe they will have to sacrifice their mileage expenses, or some of the other ‘perks’ that go with being in an inter-county squad these days.
But I think the players will understand that. Because any footballer or hurler who intends to play inter-county from October to December just wants to compete.
That’s what their focus will be on.
They will understand that right now there are much bigger concerns and worries for people all across the country. For frontline workers, people who are sick or others who have lost their jobs — they’re the people who must take priority now.
GAA players know that, they are part of communities, and I don’t think there would be any issue or backlash if they were told that the money wasn’t there to pay the going rate for mileage, for example, in the months ahead.
One thing the GAA hierarchy do have to think about is ‘competitive disadvantage’.
Just say we go into October and a particular county is in lockdown, meaning their inter-county squads can’t train collectively. They are then at a competitive disadvantage going into their first round game. And that affects the integrity of the competition.
Likewise, if the Coronavirus gets into a squad during the championship, and they have to pull out of the competition, where does that leave us?
Sure, the GAA can’t make any hard or fast rules about it now, but it’s something they have to be prepared for and they need to think about.
Playing GAA matches isn’t a matter of life or death.
Yes, it would be important for society and important for the Association to have a championship this year. Or even for the club championships to be completed.
Because the games are so important to so many people’s lives and their mental health. And they provide such great entertainment and distraction for all of us, especially at a time like this.
But what has to happen is that the right decisions in the interest of the country are made at a given moment.
The GAA has gone through so many trials and tribulations since 1884, and is so resilient, that it will survive whatever happens in the months ahead.

Belmullet will miss Barrett’s good qualities
I HAVE to admit it was strange to see my old Belmullet and Mayo team-mate Chris Barrett line out for his new club, Clontarf, in the Dublin club championship on TV last weekend.
It certainly wasn’t hard to pick him out though; he showed a lot of the qualities that have made him such an outstanding footballer for club and county for years, and Belmullet are already missing those qualities.
But Chris transferring to a Dublin club like Clontarf is understandable when you consider that he’s living and working in the capital, and has given so much to Belmullet and Mayo.
I think everyone in Belmullet respects his decision, and have nothing but good things to say about Chris as a footballer and a leader. And they are the things that they will miss about him now. Belmullet could always rely on him to be aggressive, brave, proactive and to lead.
He also had the mentality to match up against the very best opposition players too, whether that was Andy Moran or Cillian O’Connor or whoever.
Belmullet are missing that at the moment, and will miss it into the future.
I wish him well with Clontarf and Mayo, and thank him for all he’s done for Belmullet over the years. It was a pleasure for me to play with him; he was such a brilliant footballer and you could always rely on him.
Any time I ran down a blind alley, I knew Chris would be coming off my shoulder. He’d always get you out of trouble. And he’d always have your back.
As for the Mayo club championship, the next few weeks will decide everything.
It’s been very open so far and it’s good to see a lot of the county players playing big parts.
It also seems that some teams are struggling to get into a rhythm because they haven’t had five or six league games to get up to speed before the championship started.
But as expected a lot of the usual suspects are going to be in the shake-up again.

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