Tyrone may not be able to fulfil rearranged All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry

County sought a two-week deferral and say the welfare of players is paramount

Tyrone GAA in consultation with Cork Park decided to test the panel of players and the results on Monday prompted the application for a postponement. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

Tyrone GAA in consultation with Cork Park decided to test the panel of players and the results on Monday prompted the application for a postponement. Photograph: Laszlo Geczo/Inpho

 

The All-Ireland semi-final between Kerry and Tyrone, which was re-fixed for August 21st in response to a request for postponement by Tyrone because of a Covid outbreak has been thrown into doubt after comments by the county chair Michael Kerr.

As a result of the re-arrangement, the All-Ireland final has been pushed back to Saturday, September 4th with a throw-in time yet to be announced.

Kerr said that a two-week deferral had been sought but the GAA had granted just six days and that in the circumstances, whereas they “appreciated” the postponement, Tyrone may not be capable of fulfilling the re-arranged fixture. 

“The welfare of the players is paramount. The management will not be making a decision until this weekend on whether we will be capable of fulfilling the fixture.

“This is about player welfare, and it’s clear that our players will not be ready to engage in a high intensity championship game so soon after being directly affected by this virus.

“While we appreciate the postponement, which now allows us to be able to field a team, our request to have the match put back until the following weekend would have allowed us to be able to field a team that would be properly prepared and be in a position to do itself justice in an All-Ireland semi-final.

“We are grateful to have the opportunity to be able to field, but by the same token, disappointed that Croke Park have not given us sufficient time to prepare a proper challenge for Kerry.”

Croke Park sources had emphasised that the six-day postponement from next Sunday until Saturday week, whereas not ideal, was a considered balancing of all interests, including Kerry’s, the other semi-finalists’, Mayo and Dublin, and the desire to implement the club season from September.

Uncertainty

Kerr acknowledged the issue for their opponents: “We are also conscious of the fact that the situation is not an ideal one for Kerry, and the uncertainty creates difficulties for their preparations for this important game.”

He also referred to the Ulster final before which Tyrone lost players to Covid as proof of their bona fides in seeking the extended postponement.

“While we had some positive cases prior to the Monaghan match, we didn’t request a postponement, because we felt we had a panel capable of fulfilling the fixture. The only reason we requested a postponement this time was because we definitely could not have fielded this weekend.

“For the following weekend, while technically we have a panel, the preparation will be well short of what is required for a game of this importance and of this level.”

It is not clear what the next move will be. Should Tyrone decide at the weekend that they are unable to fulfil the fixture, they may be forced to withdraw, which would be a sensational development in a season that the GAA has managed to see through as far as now with no championship matches being called off because of Covid.

It is only at this stage of the championship that deferrals are allowed, as earlier fixtures in the provinces are considered too potentially disruptive to call off in a tightly packed calendar. Last year Sligo withdrew from the Connacht football championship because of an outbreak.

Kerry chair Tim Murphy had earlier accepted the postponement as “pragmatic” but further delay would be even more disruptive.

“From our point of view,” he said on Radio Kerry’s ‘Terrace Talk,’ “of course it’s a disappointment because from a players’ and management perspective, all your preparations were geared towards the game next Sunday, likewise for supporters, travel arrangements, booking accommodation, etc but overall, the situation in Tyrone was of such a scale that I don’t think the GAA, to be fair, had any option but to offer a postponement because they literally would not have been able to fulfil the fixture if it hadn’t been the case.

“In the circumstances, I think it’s the most pragmatic decision that could have been made.”

Knock-on effect

The knock-on effect on the All-Ireland final is to push it back so that whoever wins the Kerry-Tyrone semi-final can have a two-week break. A time has yet to be announced but on the same day, the Republic of Ireland are playing Azerbaijan in a World Cup qualifier at the Aviva Stadium with kick-off at 5pm.

The GAA also confirmed that the All-Ireland under-20 football final between Offaly and Roscommon would go ahead at Croke Park next Sunday, as scheduled, at 1.30. Also at Croke Park will be the women’s football semi-final between Cork and Meath, which has been switched from Tuam on Saturday. It throws in at 3.30.

The first All-Ireland men’s football semi-final between Dublin and Mayo goes ahead as scheduled at 6.0 this Saturday. It will be preceded at 3.45 by the first women’s semi-final between the same counties.

The women’s final is fixed for September 5th the day after the rescheduled men’s final.

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