While senior intercounty GAA matches are exempt from the latest intensive period of restrictions being implemented around Covid-19 over the next four weeks announced by the North Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster on Wednesday, there is continuing uncertainty and concern around how exactly this may impact on the remaining league and upcoming championship fixtures.
The Fermanagh county board are still awaiting word from the GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) on whether or not their Division 2 game of the resumed Allianz Football League away to Clare will be postponed from this Sunday. The official request was submitted on Tuesday given the number of Covid-19 cases in the Fermanagh panel, manager Ryan McMenamin reporting that 17 players were unavailable to train last week.
With the incidence of Covid-19 continuing to spiral upwards and with pressure on hospital beds, Foster told Assembly members that the hospitality sector will shut down for four weeks from Friday while schools will close for two weeks from Monday.
In announcing the restrictions she advised against all “unnecessary travel”. No indoor sport of any kind or organised contact sports will be permitted other than at elite level. Gyms may remain open for individual training only, while universities will be advised to provide “distance learning to the maximum extent possible”.
In addition, it was announced that no events “involving more than 15 people (except for allowed outdoor sporting events where the relevant number for that will continue to apply)”, which means there will be no spectators allowed at any matches for the next four weeks.
Fermanagh have requested the postponement of Sunday’s game “on player welfare grounds”, noting that what’s at stake: Division 2 is the closest of the four divisions when it comes to the last battle for promotion and relegation, with consequences too for future participation in the race for Sam Maguire in the summer of 2021, presuming the championship reverts back to the qualifier format by then.
Every county apart from Fermanagh is still in the hunt for promotion, and it’s equally close when it comes to escaping relegation – with just three points separating the top seven teams. A defeat for Fermanagh would mean certain relegation, and also condemn them to Tailteann Cup second-tier football next summer
In previous correspondence, the GAA have said that “where relegation to a lower tier is a direct consequence” the game can be postponed (as well as All-Ireland semi-finals, finals) where the winners or losers aren’t out again for at least another 13 days.
Clare football manager Colm Collins has already indicated that he is open to facilitating Fermanagh’s request for a postponement, suggesting that it could be refixed as a midweek game. The following weekend, Fermanagh are due to conclude their league programme in Enniskillen with a tie against Laois, before they are then set to host Down in an Ulster Football Championship quarter-final on Sunday, November 8th.
It has also already been agreed all remaining league games will be played without any spectators, North or South.