GAA Football

GAA players can't be jumping Covid19 testing queue: Antrim chief Ciaran McCavana

Ciaran McCavana (left) says there have been uplifting aspects of life during the Covid19 pandemic

ANTRIM chairman Ciaran McCavana says it’s a question of morality rather than merely one of cost over the GAA providing Covid19 test kits for players as the Association grapples with ways of managing a return to the playing field.

In last weekend’s interview on The Sunday Game, GAA President John Horan said testing of players would prove “extremely expensive” but added it could be discussed by a GAA advisory committee.

“To get into the operation of testing players would prove extremely expensive so I think we even have to be beyond that point of testing players before they go out onto the pitch because it has already been said if sporting organisations wish to take on the testing process they’ll have to fund it themselves.”

Pressed further by host Des Cahill on whether county players may be tested in the future to help a resumption, Horan added: “I’m not ruling that out, that’s something that will be discussed among our advisory group but certainly it’s not something we could do a blanket across the whole organisation.”

McCavana said there is “a lot of pressure on the top table of the GAA” but believed Horan had led from the front in his last year of his presidency.

While acknowledging the cost implications of testing GAA players, the Naomh Enna clubman insisted it wouldn’t be morally right for them to jump the proverbial queue ahead of any other citizen.

“When you think about it logically there are three aspects to it. One is morality,” said McCavana.

“Is it morally right GAA players playing a sport go to the front of the queue for testing ahead of other citizens?

“Secondly, there’s the mundane aspect of liability. They’re going into a zone where everyone is cleared but what if you did the test and the test was negative and you hadn’t symptoms at that time... You’re open to all sorts of liability issues and being sued. Thirdly, the practicalities of paying for all that just makes it unachievable.”

Like everybody, McCavana would like the 2020 Allianz Leagues completed even though Horan expressed doubt over this prospect.

McCavana’s native county were well placed in both football and hurling to gain promotion. Darren Gleeson’s hurlers had qualified for the Division 2A promotion play-off final with Kerry before action was halted while Lenny Harbinson’s footballers were well placed in Division Four after hitting brilliant form against Limerick with just two games remaining.

“Judging by the current table, Antrim’s hurlers would be due to get promoted. We’d rather win it on the field against Kerry,” he said.

“I know the big games bring in the revenue, but for a lot of teams in the lower divisions, their year is based around their League. For example, Antrim footballers’ aim this year was to gain promotion out of Division Four.

“All the other stuff was a bonus for us. It’s the same with hurling. While we’d love to win the Joe McDonagh, the priority was to get out of Division Two and to get into Division One so that we were playing top tier. That was our priority this year.”

If Gaelic Games does resume at county level towards the end of the year it appears priority will be given over to a truncated Championship rather than completing the Leagues which, as Jim McCorry pointed out, would take just seven days to sort out.

The GAA’s more pressing role right now is providing practical leadership within their own communities and helping the most vulnerable.

The Antrim county panels have led from the front by donating £3,000 to three food banks in the county, a figure matched by the county board.

“Our role is to keep the cohesion of the Association. Some people see the GAA as a sporting organisation of our field games; the reality is we are more than that. The strength of the GAA and the definition of the GAA is shining through at the minute.

“We are a community-based organisation. I’m not being disrespectful to other sporting organisations but I don’t think anyone has the breadth or depth that we have in our communities, and that’s coming to the fore.

“GAA clubs are delivering prescriptions, helping with food parcels and helping with travel. While it’s a difficult time because we aren’t on the pitch and playing games, it’s also an uplifting time to see the vast majority of people in the GAA doing a lot more than contributing to their sport. It’s a community-based organisation and this is us giving something back to the community.”

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