KILDARE captain David Hyland would be happy to see a switch to a knockout Championship this summer if it was the only way to get intercounty games played in 2020.
At the moment, things are very much up in the air as to what way the GAA will tackle the fixture problem arising from the Coronavirus pandemic.
Even though nothing has been confirmed yet it is almost taken for granted by now that the GAA Championship will not be going ahead as originally planned and there will have to be some sort of change to the structure. Already two games in the Connacht Championship, Roscommon’s away game in London and Galway’s game away to New York, have been postponed and it seems certain that the GAA will have to make some tough decisions very soon.
One possibility that has been mooted is a return for one year only of a knockout championship. That would be met with approval of some who remember the days before the back door system was introduced in 2001 when every game was do-or-die. Under normal circumstances it’s not a system that would be popular among players who train far too hard and sacrifice so much for potentially only one game but these are far from normal circumstances and Hyland would much prefer a straight knockout format than no Championship.
“I’d have no problem with that (knock out format). Industries everywhere, the whole country, all over the world are shutting down and making different sacrifices. I’d much rather have it that way than have nothing at all because we have been training hard over the last five or six months. It would give us something to aim for rather than it just being nipped in the bud,” he said.
What he would insist on is a period of time before any Championship game for players to reacquaint themselves with the football pitch.
“What we are aiming for, and what we have told to be aiming for, is two, three weeks together and I think the GAA will respect that,” he said.
Although there are no group training sessions at the moment Hyland knows that the players must use this time to stick as close as they can to their training programmes. Because of that, S&C coach Ross Dunphy is now the most important man in the Kildare set up as he is the one setting out programmes that each member of the panel can follow.
“This period is definitely a change of our usual routine of going to Hawkfield four or five times a week. We are lucky though to be provided with a very good structure from Ross Dunphy, our S&C coach. He has been very good and very proactive in giving us programmes and walking us through those programmes as well.
“The communication lines have really been flowing. All the management team have really stepped up whether it’s Jack, Bryan Murphy, Tom Cribbin or Ross Glavin for video analysis. The main thing at the moment though is that Ross Dunphy keeps bringing variation to our sessions. It’s an extremely hard job for him and I know that he has been taking days off work and things like that just to make sure that we are on top of where we need to be. We are going to be demanding as players to be able to get that variation because you don’t want to be doing the same sessions everyday of the week. The management are really coming up trumps, we’re really grateful for the effort that they are putting in and we need to match that effort as players,” said Hyland.
When the time does eventually come for football to be played again, Hyland feels that it really will show which team used this time to the full effect.
“Everyone in the country is in the same boat at the moment and we are all on a level playing field, it’s not like anybody is getting an advantage or anything like that. I think come Championship the team who puts the best work in between now and when we start back is the team who will start off on the best foot. If it is straight knock out, it’s going to be over very quick so the team who capitalises on this new training regime will be the team who triumphs eventually,” said Hyland
After a three game losing streak, Kildare hoped to have turned a corner in their league season with a win over Laois and were looking forward to finishing off their campaign with home games against Westmeath and Cavan but while Kildare can’t build on the momentum from the Laois game, Hyland is looking at the postitives and hopes that Kildare will have a full panel to pick from when things resume.
“It was tough timing but there are two sides of the coin. We had a great win over Laois and were picking up a bit of momentum but we also had a number of injuries and we’d hope that when we come back whenever that is that we’ll have Aaron Masterson fully fit, Fergal Conway full fit. We picked up a few injuries in the week heading into the Cavan game – Niall Kelly, Neil Flynn, Adam Tyrrell – three key forwards pulled up with injuries so maybe it was a blessing in disguise. It was frustrating that we were picking up momentum but there is no reason why we can’t continue that momentum when we get back together as well,” he said.