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Dublin: 5°C Monday 17 May 2021

No GAA championships if country moves to Level 5, says Leo Varadkar

The 2020 inter-county season resumes this weekend.

Leo Varadkar at a match in Croke Park (file pic).
Leo Varadkar at a match in Croke Park (file pic).
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

THE GAA INTER-COUNTY championships will come to a halt if the country is moved to Level 5 Covid-19 restrictions, says Leo Varadkar. 

The 2020 inter-county season resumes this weekend with GAA National League games and All-Ireland U20 football semi-finals down for decision behind closed doors. The All-Ireland camogie championship also kicks off, as do the provincial stages of ladies football championship action.

The All-Ireland senior football and hurling championships are due to start on 24 October.

While the border counties of Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal are currently at Level 4, the rest of the country remains at Level 3 as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

And despite a NPHET proposal that could see professional and elite sport and inter-county GAA continue at the highest level of the government’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan, the Tánaiste told Today FM that a move to Level 5 would mean the end of the championship.

“It would,” Varadkar said, speaking to Matt Cooper on The Last Word yesterday.

This contradicts the exemption put forward by Chief Medical Officer Tony Holohan in a letter to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly last week. “No matches or sports events are permitted — exemption for professional/elite/ senior inter-county/horse-racing behind closed doors” under Level 5 restrictions, Holohan wrote.

Fine Gael leader Varadkar did give his backing for league action to resume this weekend, insisting it was possible for the games to be run off safely.

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That said, he noted that the amateur status of the GAA presents more problems than that of professional sport.

“I think ultimately that it is going to be a decision for the GAA, they are the right ones to make it.

“I do think it’s feasible for inter-county, elite sports to continue. We’ll see international competitions – for example – continue. And I wouldn’t like to see Irish teams or Irish athletes having to pull out of international competitions.

“But it is difficult for the GAA in particular, because they are amateur athletes and they can’t be bubbled and cocooned in a way that Premiership players can be, or even provincial rugby players can be.

“But it can be done, and it obviously has to be done with no spectators.”

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