Back to normal, but not as we know it

Starting out on this ramble, two thoughts are to the forefront of those assembled. Firstly, thankfully, things appear to be edging back towards normal – whatever that is. Except for the fact that the last deployed adjective is in need of re-definition itself with the times we now find ourselves in. Now read on…

Thus, while in one sense there was an instant shot of excitement knowing that the draws for the Meath adult hurling and football championships had taken place, enthusiasm and excitement brought about by same was short-lived. When it was pointed out that due to social distancing and all the brouhaha pertinent to the Corona Virus, there is a strong possibility that either there will be no spectators allowed or a very or a very limited number thereof.

And if it’s the latter option, how exactly does one police that? Especially at club grounds, because, durable as Pairc Tailteann may be, it simply wouldn’t be feasible for the old ground to hold every code and every grade in the old ground. It would be worn out faster than letting a batch of Charolais store heifers out to graze it.

At the time of typing, the maximum number allowed at any public gathering is 50. If both teams involved in a game brought solely their starting 15 and five permitted subs, that’s 40 people straight away. A referee, two linesmen and four umpires adds another seven to that total. What happens to the three remaining allocations?

LOTTERY?

Even considering having one mentor per team and, say, one medic looking after both sides seems ludicrous. Just as patrons having to book themselves into a pub and only being permitted therein for a specified period does. Granted, by the time scheduled to throw in – locally at least – the limit will apparently be lifted to 200. But, factor in that, already, between both sides, match officials and not even half of the required medical/physio cover, half of the tonne of attendees allowable would already be in situ, what happens then?

To this point, I’ve made no mention of the fact that, for example, the host club would require people to prepare for, manage and steward the occasion or indeed, the press/photographers needed to provide coverage of events and where does that leave you? If after all of the above, there was still capacity under the 200 – as would likely be the case – how do you decide who gets in? A lottery? For that matter, who makes the call as to who gets in or who doesn’t? Someone suggested yesterday that issuing tickets to all games could be a solution.

Fine in theory, especially in, say, Pairc Tailteann. Again, however, how would it work at ordinary club grounds? Who prints the tickets? Who pays for said printing? How do you count when there are exactly 200 people in? Doable in the county ground certainly, but at club pitches, I’m not so sure.

In my opinion, there are only two possible solutions that go remotely close to fair. Either do away with restrictions altogether and let people make their own minds up as to whether they go places or not, or pull the pin on sport until the new year. While the return of horse racing to television screens is most welcome and was indeed very badly needed, patience at happenings such as two meetings within a few days of each other and they being completely off limits is wearing fairly thin.

Ratoath’s Eamon Wallace

NUTS AND BOLTS

Anyway, part of the above was a digression. To return to point, at least something like the championship draws being done at least signifies that the nuts and bolts of the GAA are attempting to slip back into motion. For their part, like presumably every other Co Committee in the country, Meath’s power brokers have altered their competition to encompass four groups of four teams in the SFC, with the winners of each going through to semi finals. Meaning that, if things go to script, some team will claim the silverware after five games. Similarlly, group sizes in the other grades of football have been reduced, yet all teams should be guaranteed enough game time to keep everybody appeased.

THE LUCK OF THE DRAW

For the record, the pairings for the opening round of fixtures in the various football grades are as follows, in no particular order, are as follows:

SFC

1: St Peter’s, Dunboyne v. Dunshaughlin, St Colmcille’s v. Gaeil Colmcille

2: Moynalvey v. Summerhill, Curraha v. Wolfe Tones

3: Donaghmore/Ashbourne v. Navan O’Mahonys, Na Fianna v. Seneschalstown

4. Simonstown Gaels v. Skryne, Nobber v. Ratoath.

IFC

1: Bective v. Drumbarragh, Trim v. Rathkenny

2: St Michael’s v. St Patrick’s, Walterstown v. Moylough

3: Dunderry v. Kilmainham, Blackhall Gaels v. Castletown

4: Oldcastle v. Syddan, Duleek-Bellewstown v. Ballinabrackey

5. Longwood v. Meath Hill, Ballinlough v. Clann Na NGael

Mickey Burke

JFC

1: Dunsany v. St Mary’s, Kilbride v. Drumconrath

2: Clonard v. Carnaross, Ballivor v. Boardsmill

3: Slane v. Cortown, St Vincent’s v. Moynalty

4. Kilmainhamwood v. St Brigid’s, St Ultan’s a bye

Clonard’s Adam Flanagan

HURLING

At the outset, I must admit to being slightly confused about the way in which the hurling championships are put together. But, if matters are being taken in correctly by yours truly, teams seem to be assured of a fair number of outings apiece. What is very obvious from the pairings is that there appears to be one very strong group, and one which, with respect, the teams who emerge therefrom will do very well to progress further.

On the one side, you have perennial contenders Kiltale and Kildalkey along with a Trim team who were something of surprises last term, making it all the way to the Jubilee Cup decider. Where they eventually succumbed to a Kildalkey side who had already ousted the first of the three teams mentioned above and thus derailed their search for a sixth consecutive Christmas as champions.

Kiltale and Meath’s Jack Regan

Whatever about the victory in the football championship, to me at least, Ratoath’s progress to the knockout stages of the SHC was a bit of a surprise. Having said that, perhaps it shouldn’t have been given the growth of the area and, as a direct consequence of same, the club. After all, Darragh Kelly, Padraic O’Hanrahan and Gavin McGowan are pivotal players on the county team. Their presence completes the minefield that is Group A.

With respect to those in Group B, including my own club, with a number of them in transition (we’re definitely in that boat) all the power appears to be on the other side of the scales. One assumes the curious looking format for the competition were solely as such due to prevailing circumstances, but it is still puzzling how the end product was arrived.

As the championships are being played off on a round robin basis, why there was a need to afford one team in each group a bye instead of having the normal format of two groups of a half dozen sides each is unclear. For it appears each side will have roughly the same number of fixtures as would normally be the case.

However odd that might seem, though, having split groups in an Intermediate championship with only six teams competing makes even less sense. Not as little, mind you, as a Junior version with only four. Still, at least seeing – or at least hearing about – how it all unfolds is something to look forward to…In one way!

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