This weekend the Championship was due to begin in earnest with 11 provincial matches scheduled to take place.

RTÉ Sport is examining some of these matches and their would-be participants in greater detail.

Darragh Maloney chats to Offaly manager John Maughan, who is sceptical his side's Leinster SFC match against Carlow, scheduled for this evening, will be played at all in 2020.

The Offaly football manager John Maughan says he has cannot see the inter-county Championship being played this year.

Offaly were due to play Carlow in the Leinster Championship this weekend but the game has been postponed because of the Covid-19 crisis.

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Maughan believes a return to action is difficult to imagine without a vaccine: "I love the GAA and I am missing it terribly as everyone is. The reality is while we have social distancing, which is a public health requirement, I certainly wouldn't advocate a return to play and that applies at inter-county level and also at club level.

"The idea of 36 people congregating in a dressing-room doesn’t work for me with social distancing and then the players out on the field in close contact would not be acceptable."

Earlier this week, the GAA ruled out any inter-county games before October, while counties have been asked to suspend all activity until the 20 July.

After that, training will resume at club level – providing officials are satisfied that it is safe to do so.

The safety of the players and their families is of paramount importance to the Offaly manager: "We are all extremely disappointed and we know it’s completely out of the control of everybody in this jurisdiction.

"But I wouldn’t want to see anyone jeopardise their health or the health of their families by engaging in any activity that might create havoc in their lives and remember, playing any sport, whether it’s Gaelic games or other, it’s a lifestyle choice and a pastime and I would not like to see anything being jeopardised for a pastime."

This will be a very strange weekend for everybody involved with Offaly and Carlow GAA. The counties were scheduled to meet in Tullamore on Saturday in their championship opener.

Offaly were fifth in Division 3 while Carlow were sixth in Division 4 when the league programme was suspended in March.

"We are all missing it. We are a structured cohort of athletes and there is a strict, disciplined approach to the way we do things and that’s all been thrown up in the air," says Maughan.

"We’ve been keeping in touch with our players with Zoom calls and just trying to have a bit of fun with them online because I think they need that. Ordinarily they would have great structure to their lives and you have a group of people who have become very close to one another. It’s the GAA family and they rely on each other and now there’s a huge void in their lives."

Every person with an interest in sport is keeping a close eye on what is happening in other countries and while the return of the Bundesliga in Germany is a hopeful sign, there will be no spectators at the matches and that is not something Maughan would favour in this country.

"I am certainly not a fan of playing behind-closed-doors as I don’t think there would be any interest in it."

Maughan believes if there is a safe route back to playing games in 2020, priority will be given to the clubs.

"If they lift the lid and play a club championship, I would think that it might take 10 to 12 weeks to run off, particularly where you have counties with dual players involved. I think that should become the focus.

"The best I could see in inter-county terms would be to try and finish off the league but I can’t see them trying to squeeze the championship into a short space of time."

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