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Dublin: 11 °C Wednesday 8 July, 2020

GAA may yet accelerate reopening of club pitches

But Covid-19 training must take place first.

A view of Kilcock GAA.
A view of Kilcock GAA.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Updated Jun 5th 2020, 8:20 PM

GAA PRESIDENT JOHN Horan hasn’t ruled out the possibility of club grounds opening up sooner than 29 June in light of the government’s announcement today.

The GAA’s return to action plan released this evening stated that playing facilities can reopen for training involving groups of no more than 10 when the country moves onto phase three of its recovery plan at the end of June.

But earlier the government gave the green light for sports teams to train in groups of 15 or less from Monday. Speaking on a conference call with members of the media this evening, Horan said the GAA may now be more “flexible” with their approach.

However, in order for GAA clubs to reopen, they must first complete a safe return checklist.

Requirements include the club chairpersons, secretaries, coaches and players all completing an online coronavirus educational module, while a Covid supervisor must be appointed for each team.

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 8.06.22 p.m.

“We have already shown flexibility with the way we have moved with the roadmap,” said Horan.

“We will continue to examine that, but one key element for us opening our facilities is that we actually get our membership trained in terms of the use of the facilities, and having somebody trained up to be a team supervisor on Covid matters.

“I think we have to get that training in place before we open our facilities. When that is in place, obviously it may take the three weeks through to the next phase, then we will open our facilities.

“We are going to be flexible and the movement with the government this afternoon was quite positive. We are quite happy to row along with that positivity, but again the training is key before we open the facilities.”

With clubs games set to return on 31 July, an 11-week window has been provided for counties to run off local championships. GAA director of games administration Fergal McGill said that counties have not been instructed to run-off competitions on a knock-out basis.

“It is a matter for each county as to how they will run their club championships,” he said.

Horan added: “I already spoke to a county secretary this afternoon and the plan in that county is to have a round-robin where each will have three matches, then a quarter-final, semi-final, and a final. That is totally in order, there is no drive to have knock-out.”

a-view-of-croke-park-after-the-gaa-this-evening-released-their-safe-return-to-gaelic-games-document A view of Croke Park. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Strict protocols will be in place once club facilities do reopen. The GAA guidelines will follow best medical practice used by international professional sporting bodies.

“The safest way to proceed is to tog out at home, put on a strapping at home, travel alone, don’t enter the premises apart from the toilet if necessary,” said Dr Kevin Moran who is on the Covid-19 Advisory Group.

“Follow all the instructions on the pitch and then afterwards, to travel home alone and shower at home. In the meantime, while at the pitch to wash hands on the way in. If it is thought necessary, there will be a sanitiser at the pitch in the car park at the entrance to the pitch, at pitchside and to wash hands at any time that is thought necessary.

“We would not think that there is any increased risk of transmitting the virus by going home and showering at home.

“We think that, for players following this protocol, there is very minimal risk of picking up the virus at training sessions or indeed of transmitting it.

“We think, in fact, with the protocols that we have in place, the GAA will be one of the safest places for a player to be. In fact, if you contrast that with going down to the local shopping centre or somewhere like that, the GAA pitch is probably the safest place they could be.”

Players will also have to fill out a health questionnaire and have their temperatures taken each time they go training or to a game. If their temperature is above 37.5 they must return home.

Screenshot 2020-06-05 at 8.06.05 p.m.

Contact training will not be permitted until social distancing measures are removed by the government but the GAA are optimistic the numbers are trending in the right direction.

“If social distancing remains two meters, then there cannot be contact,” explained Moran. 

“However, the trends over the last few weeks is that the R-value was decreased, our intensive care and hospitals are almost empty of Covid patients and the mortality rate has decreased dramatically.

“All the indications are that over the next few weeks is that the situation will settle. If the first step goes well, players going back to training with two metres of distancing, then we would be able to progress to contact training.

“But there are no absolute guarantees about anything. This is a fluid situation, it is still evolving.”

Elsewhere, McGill said he does not envisage any problems over inter-county managers being denied access to players until 14 September.

“I think it’s practical. I don’t expect managers to be happy, far from it, but that’s a very different thing to whether it is practical or not.

“There is a cake here that has to be divided among a massive amount of participants. The overwhelming body of participants are club players so I think on any terms if you are given a full month to prepare a team, that’s plenty.

“We would love to be able to give inter-county team managers more, we would love to be able to give the club more. It is just not possible in the constraints.”

The GAA’s preference remains to complete the remaining rounds of the Allianz Leagues but no decision has been made on it yet.

Finally, Horan confirmed that the GAA’s roadmap also applies to the LGFA and Camogie Association.

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Kevin O'Brien

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