By Paddy McIlwaine
I suspect, like most of you the news of a lockdown of GAA club fixtures didn’t come as a massive surprise but never the less a big disappointment. In a season where we looked like getting little if any football the news that we were going to have club championships came as welcome news to this scribe and a massive boost to my personal wellbeing.
A club championship without the interruption of county fixtures has been broadly welcomed and indeed sited in many quarter as a blueprint as to how our Gaelic games should be staged in the future but whether that format will be adopted or not is a matter that will be decided at a later date.
For now we are left in something of a limbo with a number of competitions, mostly juvenile and regional, left unfinished and for the teams that have qualified for those semi-finals and finals it must be a matter of great disappointment but hopefully these games can be staged later in the year if matters on the Covid-19 front improve.
Like many I have spoken to, I found this year’s championships in Antrim the most exciting in years and the fixtures committee should be lauded for the exciting format they came up with, especially in football while the league stages of the hurling left some teams a bit short on fixtures but this is something that can be looked at should we decide to adopt a similar format next season.
The use of Dunsilly for quite a number of championship fixture was another success story for the Antrim board with the centre of excellence being deployed to great effect to stage both the Intermediate Hurling and Football finals and both semi-finals of the Senior Hurling championship and looking resplendent.
In the meantime it is back to the county scene with a couple of rounds of league fixtures still to be played on the football front and an Ulster and All Ireland championship to follow. At the time of writing these games are still scheduled to go ahead but are likely to be played behind closed doors so hopefully we will be able to follow them on the very successful format of live streaming which has been adopted by Antrim and other counties.
The action for Antrim teams is scheduled to get under way on Saturday the 17th October with Antrim Minor hurlers facing Kildare at the Abbotstown Centre of excellence in the Electric Ireland Leinster Championship while the Antrim footballers are away to Wicklow on the same day in Aughrim with both games set for 2-00 pm.
On the same day Antrim face Down in the Leinster U20 hurling qualifiers while the next day (Sunday) Antrim are set to meet Kerry in the Allianz Hurling League 2A final in O’Connor Park, Tullamore so we are in for a busy weekend.
As always the Saffron Gael will be endeavouring to cover all of these games and with spectator opportunities likely to be limited there will be a greater urgency for our website to bring you our extensive coverage though just what the situation regarding photographers and reporters is not yet known.
Almost six months ago I was getting ready to make the long journey to Aughrim for the vital NFL Division 4 clash between Wicklow and Antrim, a game that will probably decide if Antrim are to play their football in division 3 next year and nothing has changed in that respect.
In the week leading up to these fixtures we will be previewing these games and bringing you the latest news regarding players and the thoughts of the respective managers involved, In the meantime take all the precautions necessary to keep safe.