RYAN Hanna has welcomed the response of the Fermanagh and Western League who last week informed the Irish Football Association (IFA) that they would prefer to complete the season even if that meant extending it into the summer months.
The IFA wrote to all divisional associations seeking feedback on what their preferred option was in the light of the escalating Covid-19 outbreak which has led to a blanket suspension of all football.
The Fermanagh and Western, along with the Mid Ulster League, opted for an extension to the season if it were feasible although a number of other associations are understood to favour declaring the season null and void.
It is thought that the IFA will have the final say but Hanna, the manager of Mercer League title favourites Tummery Athletic, believes the mother body should allow each association to make it’s own call on the way forward.
Athletic are well on course to win an historic first ever Division One title and Hanna, while taking nothing for granted, said he and his players would love to have the opportunity to try and win the Mercer League on the field of play.
“Firstly I would have to concur with the Fermanagh and Western response, it was good to see. There was no knee jerk reaction and there didn’t need to be. ” said the player-manager.
“Sometimes it’s easier to null and void these things because then you don’t have to put in place plans to make sure it goes ahead. It’s good from my perspective given that we are in a favourable position. That said nothing has been won or lost at the minute. I think anyone from a football point of view and, if it is safe to do so, would want to run out the season, it’s as simple as that.
“Any clubs that are saying they don’t, then it’s for their own agenda.
“Most footballing people, if it’s safe for players, clubs, referees, etc, want to play the league out, it’s the bread and butter.
“At this stage you are looking at about 80% of all games played, and it would be very difficult to null and void it now.
“I suppose to some extent the Fermanagh and Western is at the mercy of the IFA but my personal opinion is that they don’t have to put a blanket ban on every league because every league has a different scenario.
“The likes of the NI Amateur League might have more games to run off than the Fermanagh and Western, that all has to be subjected to each league. They could empower each association to make their own call and they may get a better outcome.
“You might have some leagues playing and some not and that may cause some friction but that’s just the nature of it.”
Hanna accepts that logistically it will be more challenging to complete the current season but holds the viewpoint that if there’s a will there is a way.
Near the end of last season Tummery had to play five games in nine days and Hanna said most teams could squeeze their remaining games into a three week slot if needed.
“Last year we played the Junior Cup final on the 8th of June. Near the end of the season we played Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday,” he recalled.
“These things can be done, it’s not as if they haven’t been done before. The logistics might be a little more difficult but let’s be fair 40% of clubs are probably in control of their own facilities for a start.
“I’d say nine game days would complete the season, you could squeeze that into three weeks. It’s not ideal but for the integrity of the league it would be good if it could be played.
“I’m not going to put pressure on anyone because at the end of the day the health and safety of everyone is first and foremost.
“I know people might say this is only football but it does impact on a lot of people. The time they put into it, the time away from families training two and three nights a week and matches on a Saturday.
‘Take that all into consideration and it has a massive place in people’s lives. It’s not just football, it’s got a social aspect, it gets people out of the house, people have lived and breathed it for years.
“I know it’s only a one-off season and, of course, I’m going to have a biased point of view because of where we are positioned in the league but we would just like the opportunity to finish the season, everybody would.”