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'If we open up the pitches, it's going to be jammers... one death is too many'

Mayo captain Aidan O’Shea believes the GAA needs to be cautious about reopening pitches.

Updated May 28th 2020, 9:30 PM

MAYO STAR AIDAN O’Shea has suggested that opening up GAA pitches could lead to big crowds at the grounds, and believes it would difficult for club members to police the numbers.

Aidan O'Shea Aidan O'Shea at the launch of AIB's re-releasing of 'The Toughest Trade.' Source: Sportsfile

Several GAA figures have called on the association to reopen pitches in recent days, including Kilkenny’s TJ Reid and Armagh All-Ireland winner Steven McDonnell.

GAA director general Tom Ryan said this week that they are working on a ‘roadmap’ in this regard, with club grounds remaining closed until 20 July at the earliest due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

O’Shea, who was appointed the Mayo captain for the 2020 season, says he would love to see club facilities open to the public again but thinks the GAA should proceed with caution.

“When you look at the Government roadmap and it says we’re allowed be active in groups of four, and then you see the GAA don’t have their pitches open, it’s a tough one for the GAA,” says O’Shea.

I know from my own club’s perspective, I don’t know how many members we have, but if we open up the pitches, it’s going to be jammers.

“I don’t know how to expect club members are going to be able to police that. It’s very difficult and it’s going to happen across the country. You’d nearly need a rota on pitches to say ‘well the U12s are allowed go on it and they can be in these spaces.’

It’s a hard one. I’d love to see the GAA pitches opened but I’d probably err on the side of caution. Do we really want that level of activity on our pitches which may result in the cause of a spike or even one death is too many.”

O’Shea is continuing to train at a moderate level during the lockdown. He stresses that his regime wouldn’t be sufficient for a championship game at two weeks’ notice, but is still getting enough work done to keep his general condition in check.

He says he was surprised to be offered the captaincy role at the start of the season, believing at the time that he was perhaps too old for the position and that manager James Horan would select a younger candidate.

“I should have lead Mayo out against Leitrim already in a championship game,” says O’Shea, referring to their Connacht SFC quarter-final that was originally scheduled for 10 May.

aidan-oshea O'Shea was supposed to lead Mayo out to play against Leitrim earlier this month. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“It is obviously disappointing. I’m not going to say it’s extra disappointing because I’m captain but I’m just missing it as much as everybody else.

“It was something I hadn’t done and would have been disappointed at the end of my career if I didn’t get to do it.

“But I think if you’re given that leadership role, you’ve got to assess how you are about the place, how you interact with people and just maybe spend a bit more time getting to understand your team-mates on a kind of greater level than just football. That’s something that I’m trying to do.

I’m studying a leadership diploma out of the IMI [Irish Management Institute] and just trying to learn. There’s always opportunities to learn in terms of leadership, and I’m all ears.”

At present, the GAA doesn’t expect that any inter-county games will be played until at least October this year. And while the rate of Covid-19 cases has improved in Ireland, there is a possibility that GAA activity might not resume until 2021.

O’Shea points out that changes in personnel happen every year in panels, but adds that the interference of Covid-19 could have an impact on players who are approaching the end of their inter-county careers.

“It’s probably the same for most counties. There’s probably players there that had pencilled 2020 in as their last year or maybe some fellas decided that they’d go travelling in 2021.

“I’m glad to see Keith (Higgins) came out and said he’s planning on playing next year which is great.

“From a Mayo perspective there’s probably a couple there. My brother (Seamus O’Shea) is in Dublin and expecting his first child so whether he comes back in 2021 I don’t know.

“There will be change but there’s change every year with regard to squads for different reasons and it’ll be no different.” 

Mayo’s Aidan O’Shea was speaking at the launch of AIB’S re-releasing of their GAA series ‘The Toughest Trade’ on Virgin Media Television this summer.

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