Dublin and Kerry players in action in last year's All-Ireland football final. James Crombie/INPHO
Return to Play

GPA insist they will not allow health and safety of players to be put 'at undue risk'

GPA chief Paul Flynn admits there may not be any championship action in 2020.

GAA COUNTY PLAYERS have been reassured that their ‘health and safety are non-negotiable’ by the GPA and that the group will not support any situation which puts players or their families ‘at undue risk’.

As debate continues over how sporting action could return with current shutdown over the Covid-19 crisis continuing, the GPA have moved to clarify their situation in an update to members.

There is no certainty over whether there will be GAA championship games in 2020.

“We accept that the GAA can’t deliver certainty around fixtures at this time,” outlines Flynn.

“It is a fluid and ever-changing situation. However, what we would like to see is some further clarity around the GAA’s contingency plans for the inter-county and club season. The close contact nature of the playing and training environment which surrounds our games presents a heightened risk to the welfare of players, and a considerable challenge to return to action while adhering to social distancing and public health guidelines.

“It is important that the GAA engage external expert medical advice, to formulate an evidence-informed decision on a safe return to play. We will continue to work with the GAA on this.

“There remains the genuine possibility that we will not see any return to action this year, however. We hope that the situation will change in the coming months, but public health advice will be the guiding principle. I can assure you that we will not countenance a situation arising where players are asked to put themselves or their families and loved ones at undue risk. Your health and safety are non-negotiable.”

paul-flynn GPA CEO Paul Flynn. Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

The GPA Player Safety and Welfare Committee, through their medical advisor Dr Jim O Donavan and Flynn have been taking advice through the World Players Association throughout the COVID-19 crisis. That body has insisted that ‘player health and safety are non-negotiable’ and ‘they would go anywhere science would take them, but nowhere it doesn’t’.

The group is considering ‘mass quarantine options with extensive testing protocols’ but Flynn admits that option ‘may be unrealistic to the GAA’

He did reveal there ‘is a growing sense of impatience amongst players’ as they seek clarity for the 2020 season.

“The dialogue between all sporting player associations emphasised the importance of players being at the centre of all return to play discussions. This point was supported by GPA members from the recent calls with squad reps and captains.

“There is a growing sense of impatience amongst players, which is understandable. Players want clarity around plans for the 2020 season. However, what is also clear is that you are in 100% agreement that public health advice and the safety of you, the players and your families is the number one priority.

huw-lawlor-with-seamus-callanan Action from last year's All-Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Tipperary. Tommy Dickson / INPHO Tommy Dickson / INPHO / INPHO

“We are in constant communication with the GAA. We are working closely with them to address your key concerns which were raised on those calls, i.e. clarity around the fixtures calendar, clarity around return to play protocols and transparency around the role of players in any decision-making process.

“We will also provide the GAA with the information and learning from our advisors in the World Players Association.”

Flynn also believes ‘this current period should be used as downtime, with a break from inter-county commitments’. The GPA’s coaching, counselling and other support services have all been tailored but remain available while they are to roll out a series around mental fitness featuring former Ireland player Richie Sadlier and ex-Clare hurler Tony Griffin.

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