Tipp boss Sheedy: GAA championship behind closed doors ‘would give the nation a lift’

The two-time All-Ireland winning boss also believes it’s time to consider re-opening club grounds.

Liam Sheedy.

Liam Sheedy.
Image: Tom O’Hanlon/INPHO

TIPPERARY HURLING MANAGER Liam Sheedy believes a behind-closed-doors championship would lift the nation, and he’d rather see that if the alternative was no championship in 2020 at all.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Game On last night, the 2010 and 2019 All-Ireland winning boss also shared his opinion that local GAA pitches should be opened. In both cases, though, Sheedy stressed that safety is paramount.

On The Sunday Game, GAA President John Horan said that Gaelic games are unlikely to return while social distancing remains in place, and he didn’t foresee behind-closed-doors games as a viable alternative.

While Sheedy doesn’t see “anything happening in the short-term” and praised the GAA’s current stance for the most part, he sounded his support for matches being played behind closed doors, if it was safe to do so.

“If there was an opportunity to play some games, I personally think it would be a massive lift,” he said. “If nothing else was possible other than going behind closed doors, I would be in favour of it. I know Tommy Walsh was in favour of it, I know Shane McGrath wasn’t. There are a lot of people for and against.

“But to be honest with you, 80% of the matches these guys play already are behind closed doors because no one gets in to see any inter-county training.

It isn’t the same. I love the buzz and the crowd. But I think the impact it would have on Ireland, on every household across the country watching, on the well-being and health of our nation by seeing matches would trump everything.

“I think [games] behind closed doors would give the nation a lift. I know that’s not financially viable. I’m not stupid, I know the numbers wouldn’t add up. But I think it’s a question that needs to be posed to the country.

“I definitely think if it was possible and safe to do, it should be looked at.”

He continued, stressing his concerns on safety: “I wouldn’t be up for putting any player at risk. We’d need to know that a full risk-assessment has been carried out so we can understand it’s safe to play. Obviously, the club players have had their say: 57% would like to return and 21% are not sure.

Today, would I be happy putting out a Tipperary team? Absolutely not. So, we’ve got to sit tight for a number of weeks and see how things develop. It is a full-contact sport and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

“We probably have to play a longer waiting game and the safety of our players and their families has to be paramount.”

 

Sheedy does believe, however, that it’s time to consider re-opening club grounds. After the Government’s roadmap as published, the GAA confirmed that facilities and pitches would remain closed until 20 July.

“This is one I’d love to see changed,” he noted. “I know there’s a lifting of some places where people can venture from the 18 May.

liam-sheedy-celebrates-after-the-game-with-cathal-barrettCelebrating his side’s All-Ireland win last August.Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“The reality is people feel on top of the world when they have a hurley or a football in their hand, and they’re in their local pitch. There’s a connection. That’s what me and others grew up with, getting down to the pitch at every chance you got.

“Even for the health and wellbeing of all generations, there’s walking areas… if I take Portroe, and my neighbouring parishes of Kiladangan and Burgess, both of those would have two fields and a hurling wall as well. So, there’s a lot of space there.

People are nearly afraid to go to hospital to get their checks done is what we’re hearing. So I don’t really see where there would be a massive influx of people onto our pitches. It is a very, very safe environment to go where social distancing, I feel, could be adhered to.

“Everybody in local communities is so aware of the importance of social distancing and hand-washing. It’s nearly become a part of our lives. In terms of mental fitness, the pitches around Ireland can give a lot. Especially in rural Ireland, I think it’d be a massive win to be able to go into your local pitches.

“And look, if it can’t be policed or can’t be supported, or if there’s misbehaviour, then you lock the gates,” he added. “But I do think we could trust our clubs and our members to respect the rules. I think it would be a big win.”

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