Football/Soccer

Better to be safe than sorry over spectators issue: Antrim captain Declan Lynch

Lamh Dhearg's Declan Lynch (right) thinks it's the right thing to be cautious over opening the GAA gates

ANTRIM captain Declan Lynch has backed the decision to play games behind closed doors for the time being – and criticised GAA President John Horan for trying to lobby for more spectators to attend club games in the south.

Lynch also said he wouldn't rule out the prospect of contracting Covid19 again after testing positive for the virus in the early throes of the pandemic

Currently, 200 people can attend games in the 26 counties but the Irish government has stalled in increasing that number to 500 until a review on August 10 – a decision Horan was at odds with last week.

However, no spectators are permitted at club games in the six counties while Lynch reminded the GAA President of his explicit intentions to move as a 32-county unit and not at differing paces, north and south.

“John Horan said he would go with the slowest, which was the north,” Lynch said. “He said it on The Sunday Game. That’s the thing that annoyed me.

“Just recently he was calling for 500 spectators in the south – which was due to be part of the next phase [in the south] and they’ve obviously pushed that back – but calling for 500 while we have none, highlights the disrespect shown to Gaels up here.”

The President described the Irish government’s decision to delay increasing the number of spectators to 500 in the south as a “hammer blow” to the Association as it curtails county boards’ ability to make ends meet.

While scathing of Horan’s approach, Lynch thinks it is the right thing to do to keep the gates shut for now.

“I’d rather be cautious,” said the Lamh Dhearg clubman.

“If it’s right and the evidence is there that we can change and have supporters in – and I hope it does – then great, but I hope they don’t change it for the sake of it because of a bit of pressure. I hope they go on the scientific evidence.

“You just look at Derry and clubs making the right call there by shutting down and being cautious,” Lynch pointed out. “They’re protecting their community and other clubs.

“Measures at the minute with no spectators allowed in reduces the risk. We just need to be cautious and enjoy and appreciate that we’re getting some sort of normality back. We need to appreciate what people are doing for us to play games.”

With a punishing schedule ahead with his club, one of Lynch’s key objectives is gaining promotion from Division Four later this year with Antrim.

Antrim travel to Wicklow in October and then host Waterford in their remaining two National League games. But as things stand, Lynch doesn’t know exactly how the Antrim squad will travel to Aughrim come October with social distancing measures likely to be still in place.

“There are so many practicalities attached to this: We’ve to travel to Wicklow. How do we travel? Can we travel together on a coach? Do we have to take three coaches? Can we stay over in a hotel? Are spectators going to be allowed to travel north to south for the game?”

While he prepares for next Sunday’s club championship round robin opener against St John’s, Lynch still follows all the hygiene protocol despite already getting Covid19.

It’s still unclear if a person can contract the disease again.

“My symptoms were mild for the most part,” he said.

“I had a tight chest for a day or two and a lack of taste and smell and a bit of a cough. There are obviously people out there who have lost their lives or have suffered a lot more severe symptoms than me.

“There is so much evidence out there that says you can get it again and there’s other evidence that says you can’t. I’ve actually stopped looking to see if you can get it again. But I’m still just taking the necessary precautions, washing my hands and stuff like that. But I’m not walking around thinking that I’m completely free and can’t get it. That would be reckless and would be unfair on other people as well.”

Lamh Dhearg suffered a home defeat to Creggan Kickhams last Sunday but the big one comes against neighbours St John’s this weekend.

Lynch says it was strange not being able to use the changing rooms (they’re off limits due to Covid19) but says it’s a small price to pay to be able to play some football this year after it seemed there’d be nothing a couple of months ago.

“We’re probably getting used to the new normal by coming changed for games. By keeping the changing rooms closed we’re being protected but it’s going to be strange come a championship game next week where you’ll be coming stripped and you don’t have that buzz in the changing room but at least we’re getting a championship.

“It’s nearly back to when you were playing juvenile – you turn up stripped, the manager names the team and you’re out on the pitch. The innocence of it.

“But there are going to be a lot of injuries over the next few weeks, I’d imagine. I’m sure a lot of people heard what [fitness coach] Mike McGurn had to say regarding the potential for injuries. We’re trying to cram six or seven weeks of championship training into a couple of weeks.

“Players can say they were doing their own training during lockdown or whatever but I know everyone who played last weekend woke up feeling completely different to any friendly they played before the first league game.”

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Football/Soccer