Fermanagh request to postpone weekend game in Clare turned down

Uncertainty over whether new restrictions will affect league and championship fixtures

Fermanagh are due to play Clare at Cusack Park in Ennis on Saturday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Fermanagh are due to play Clare at Cusack Park in Ennis on Saturday. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

 

The prospect of the GAA’s remaining league and upcoming championship fixtures being run off without interruption appears increasingly slim after the Cabinet on Wednesday evening agreed a move for Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal to Level 4 of the Government’s Living with Covid plan; the institution of Level 4 in the three counties will be put in place until November 10th.

While senior intercounty GAA matches are exempt also from the latest intensive period of similar restrictions being implemented around Covid-19 over the next four weeks announced by the North’s First Minister Arlene Foster on Wednesday, there is continuing uncertainty and concern around how exactly this may impact on the remaining fixtures, especially in the league.

The Fermanagh County Board were also informed on Wednesday night by GAA’s Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC) that their Division 2 game of the resumed Allianz Football League away to Clare could not 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.

The Cabinet also agreed a nationwide ban on visits to homes or gardens in almost all circumstances, except for providing care. Under Level 4, people should not have any visitors to their homes, the maximum number of attendees at a wedding is six, non-essential retail will close, and all non-essential workers will work from home, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said as he announced the move.

With the incidence of Covid-19 continuing to spiral upwards and with pressure on hospital beds, Foster told Assembly members in the North that the hospitality sector will shut down for four weeks from Friday while schools will close for two weeks from Monday. The exemption for club championships will also be removed, and all sports teams will be told they cannot train unless social distancing can be observed.

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 had 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 had 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.

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