Sligo were this week forced to concede their Connacht SFC match with Galway due to a Covid-19 outbreak within the squad. This left Sligo with only 18-20 available players for this encounter leaving them unable to fulfil the fixture.
Many GAA folk have questioned the decision to call off this game, with Tomás O’ Sé being the most vocal on this matter. Sligo’s determination to play the game has been questioned, however, the Sligo county board has claimed these reports to be untrue. Stating that “all who could feasibly make themselves available wanted to play the game”.
Sligo have struggled in the last couple of seasons and this fixture would likely have resulted in a win for the Tribesmen. But that is no reason to believe Sligo did not want to play this game. Instead we should look at the GAA with some scrutiny following this decision not to re-fixture the game.
The Connacht final is due to be played the following weekend on November 15th, so any re-fixture would have a knock-on effect here. However, three weeks separate the Connacht final and the All-Ireland semi-final. Plenty of time to allow for a re-fixture. If both games were pushed back an extra week it would not upset any Connacht counties too much, as they would still have 2 weeks to prepare for the semi-final.
The GAA has since claimed that if Sligo were accommodated in this manner, where would they draw the line? And this approach could result in far more postponements over the coming weeks.
The GAA is clearly trying to avoid a fixtures pile-up but Sligo were dismissed and effectively thrown out of the championship without the GAA batting an eyelid. Being one of the weaker counties, this decision has probably not affected how the Championship will play out. One must question what if an elite county finds themselves in the same situation? Would they be eliminated too?
Of course, nobody wants to see Covid outbreaks anywhere, but, what if Dublin or Kerry (or any elite county) were to be in this situation before their respective games this weekend? Would last year’s All-Ireland finalists have been eliminated without kicking a ball and blow the Championship wide open? I highly doubt it. In this case the GAA would have probably accommodated its prized possessions and provided a re-fixture. Even if it were Galway who were in this situation, I doubt that they would have been thrown out, allowing Sligo to progress instead.
From Galway’s perspective they will feel disappointed that this fixture was cancelled as they could really have done with a warm-up for a Connacht final. I’m sure if there was an option to push these games back a week both counties would have obliged.
In a few weeks I hope we will look back at a successful championship in which no further Covid-19 outbreaks occurred in squads and resulting in no more cancellations. But that seems unlikely, and it will be very interesting to see how the GAA will handle this matter going forward.