Games should resume behind closed doors - Derry boss Gallagher

Rory Gallagher
Rory Gallagher replaced Damian McErlain as Derry boss in September

Derry manager Rory Gallagher believes games should be played behind closed doors if it is the only way to get the GAA season up and running.

A motion to give the GAA's management committee power to change the championship structure was passed unopposed at Friday's Special Congress.

That opens the pospect of a condensed championship later in the year.

The GAA had said it is "highly unlikely" there will be inter-county activity before July due to Covid-19.

Gallagher has called for "innovative" thinking and claims: "too many people were keen to rush in and want decisions taken".

Down boss Paddy Tally is also hopeful club and county action can take place in 2020 and wants the National Leagues to be completed, adding: "we have to be fluid in our way of thinking and accept the way things are".

The GAA's first virtual congress was held remotely between 67 delegates, including just one from each county.

In a short statement the GAA confirmed: "the motion at the GAA's Special Congress for a temporary governance structure in emergency situations was passed unopposed".

It is expected an initial period of 'special emergency circumstances' will be for we weeks though further eight-week periods can subsequently be approved by Central Council if necessary.

Paddy Tally
Down manager Paddy Tally joined Gallagher's calls for the GAA to be inovative

Gallagher's Derry team is due to host Armagh in the first round of the Ulster Senior Football Championship at Celtic Park and he is optimistic the game will be played at some stage.

"Providing we all get through this safely and it can be done safely I don't see why not," he added.

"There is definitely a willingness in the GAA hierarchy and as sports people we'd all love to play. The media was too quick to write the obituary.

"There is no reason why we can't play behind closed doors or with limited crowds if that is what's needed at the time and still stream the games.

"There will be a demand for people to watch sporting events."

We have to be innovative

On the prospect of a behind closed doors championship, Gallagher said: "there is no doubt it is not what you'd want, but you have to make the most of what's in front of you".

"If that is the only option, and they are talking about in other sports like the Premiership and NBA, and it's better than not playing at all.

"It's better for players, it's better for supporters to watch games from afar and it's better for the GAA to keep some income coming in. It's not a dirty word, the GAA needs money to keep coming in to reinvest back into the game."

Derry's hopes of gaining promotion from Division Three and avoiding the inaugural Tier Two championship looked doomed after some mixed results in the spring.

It is now unlikely any secondary competitions will be held if indeed the championship takes place at all in 2020, but Gallagher accepts there is a need for the leagues to be concluded.

"If we have to play the championship in October, November so be it. If rounds six and seven of the league are to be played you could even play them in January and do away with McKenna Cup for example.

"We have to be very innovative. Perhaps it is time to try out new things anyway.

"There won't be a back door or a secondary competition this year but you have to keep an open mind."

Down and Derry
Down and Derry were battling it out for a place in Division Two

While he would like four to six weeks preparation time, Gallagher says the players are sensible about their physical and mental wellbeing and will be ready whenever the call comes.

"It is the same for everyone, it will be a level playing field for all the teams. When Croke Park say when, we will be ready to go.

"The priority first though has got to be people being safe."

Paddy Tally agrees that the games can only return when it is right from a public health perspective.

"Normally at this stage in the year, preparations are really gathering a pace, but this is a strange year," said the Down manager.

"Everything is changing in people's lives and work - people are getting used to a new way of life and we just have to fall in with everything.

"The GAA will act in the best interests of the counties and when the time is right, we want the league to be finished.

"Whatever comes of the Championship, we know it will be a restricted one.

"But there is still the opportunity for a substantive GAA season. It is still early in the year."

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