'Now is the time to call it': Galway hurling chair says 'unfair' to ask players to play in just three weeks

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The chairman of the Galway hurling committee Paul Bellew says it would be “unfair” to ask any club player to play championship on the opening weekend of April.

Galway became the first county to postpone a section of its April club championship programme when announcing yesterday that the opening round of the Galway senior and intermediate hurling championships would not be going ahead as scheduled on April 4/5.

A number of counties, including Cork, Tipperary, and Waterford, have club championship games earmarked for the opening weekend of April, but, as of now, none bar Galway have made the call to postpone games.

With the Government ban on outdoor gatherings up to a maximum of 500 people in place until Sunday, March 29, Bellew does not believe it would be fair to ask any club player to tog out for a championship game less than a week later.

“Personally, I think it is unfair on club players in any county, or in any code, to be expected to perform on the first week of April,” Bellew told the Irish Examiner.

“You would be asking players to play five days after the ban is lifted, and so that five-day period is the only time they can realistically get together as a collective to prepare for games fixed for April 4/5.

“Now, I am not casting doubt on clubs, but postponing the games fixed for the first weekend of April takes away any incentive for a collective gathering of players [over the next fortnight].

Instead of waiting until March 29, we on the Galway hurling committee feel now is the time to call it.

Bellew added: “A point that should be made is the postponement of our opening round is preempting if somebody on a team contracts the coronavirus.

“If a member of a team contracts the coronavirus and that positive test was announced on March 30, we would have no choice but to cancel the games. We are preempting that.

“There are just too many eventualities that can happen. It is just better to call it now.”

Bellew says the committee has already discussed how it might be necessary to restructure the Galway hurling championship if there is no club activity during the month of April.

The second round of the Galway SHC remains fixed for April 18/19.

“It currently takes 10 rounds to finish the Galway SHC. If we don’t get anything played in April, the committee and clubs together would have to look at the contingency of a different structure that would get the championship run off in six/seven rounds, if this current ban extends into April and May.

“That is something we are not in a rush to do, but something we will be looking at in the next week or two, if it comes to that point.”

With club gate receipts accounting for 24% of Galway GAA’s 2019 income, the postponement of games carries “huge financial implications” for the county board.

“Our club gate receipts income for 2019 was €977k. €619k – or 63% – of that came from hurling games.

“That’s the scale of the issue we are going to face down the line because there is no replacing that.

“Of course, I say this in a GAA context as we are fully cognisant of the far, far greater problems facing society at the moment.”

Bellew outlined how the Galway hurling management met on Thursday evening and have since issued individualised programmes to their players.

“Loughgeorge is shut. Pearse Stadium is shut. There has been absolutely no questioning of the training ban to date,” the hurling committee chairman concluded.


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