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'If we could get that up to 400 or 500' - Donaghy calls for bigger crowds to be allowed at GAA club games

The current limit on the number of people who can attend matches is 200.

Kieran Donaghy.
Kieran Donaghy.
Image: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

FORMER KERRY STAR Kieran Donaghy believes that bigger crowds of up to 400 or 500 people should be allowed to attend GAA club games.

A maximum gathering of 200 persons is currently permitted at games in the 26 counties. This figure includes all present at the ground, including staff, volunteers, players, backroom staff, media, contractors, and spectators.

The rule has sparked criticism as it prevents many club members from being able to watch their team play.

An Taoiseach Micheál Martin recently said that he did not expect players and mentors to be included in the 200-figure limit, and that he is conscious of issues related to the GAA.

He added that he has spoken to the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET),  and the Chief Medical Officer Ronan Glynn about this matter.

Donaghy, who scored a goal for Austin Stacks in their draw against Dingle at the weekend, feels increasing the number of attendees at the games would be a safe measure to take.

“We’re all delighted to be back on the pitch.

“I think more people from the club would be delighted to be able to get to the games. If we could open that up to four or five hundred, I’m sure there’d be a lot of club officials very happy that they don’t have to be deciding what parent gets to see their young fella playing, and what parent doesn’t get to see their young fella playing.

“We’ve squads now, we have 35 or 36 training, but we can only tog 24.

“We’ve 12 guys that can only go in in tracksuits and stuff. Look, it’s strange times. We’re getting changed on the side of the pitch – I’m getting physio on the side of the pitch the last day before the game.

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fans-at-the-game Fans attending the Monaghan SFC game between Ballybay and Clontibret at the weekend. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“It is very strange times. I think once we get inside the white lines of the pitch and into championship mode, it became very real again. I think fellas were delighted to be out there, and expressing themselves, and probably a few months of hepped-up aggression, fellas are happy to be back.”

Remarking on the capacity in bigger stadiums, Donaghy said there would be no issues with maintaining social distancing but adds that the GAA will have to be cautious about striking a safe balance.

“I think there’s no problem maintaining social distancing in the big stadiums. I think the problem is people going in and out to the pitch. How people patrol that is obviously tricky, unless they did something like cones, two-metres apart, as you come to the game you have to stand by the cone and you can’t be behind somebody if you’re too close to somebody. 

But we don’t want thousands either, because that brings its own headache. If you get 500 into most club games, you’d have the loyal fans, the family members and the subs that aren’t on the squads getting in comfortably. I think that’s really where we’re at now.

“Obviously the club game was on first was because the GAA wanted to see come October 17, can we start getting big crowds into Croke Park? 10 or 20 thousand? I’m sure they want to get some people into the county games down the line, because I don’t know how much of an appetite there is for watching games behind closed doors with nobody there. Any number of fans will still bring an atmosphere.

“It mightn’t be as great as the packed houses, but it’s something that everybody would like to see. 500 maybe would be acceptable for most venues, bar county grounds obviously.”

EBS ambassador and Tralee Warriors basketball star, Kieran Donaghy, pictured at the launch of the 2020 Federation of Irish Sport Volunteers in Sport Awards supported by EBS.

The awards will see EBS and the Federation of Irish Sport hero the work of volunteers from around the country, who go above and beyond every day to ensure that sport takes place in Ireland.

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