Colm O'Rourke and Tony Óg Regan: GAA should be moving quicker to re-open
FORMER Meath footballer Colm O’Rourke and ex-Galway hurler Tony Óg Regan both believe the GAA should be moving more quickly to re-open.
Speaking on The Sunday Game last night, the pair joined Dick Clerkin, now a member of the GAA’s Covid-19 advisory group, in a discussion around the restart of activity.
Having been widely praised for its initial response to the pandemic crisis, the GAA has faced criticism in the last few days especially as restrictions on Irish society began to relax.
The updated guidelines both sides of the border, while not identical, do permit groups of people from different households to meet outdoors.
The GAA is due to begin re-opening pitches and walkways next Monday, June 8, for recreational and socially-distanced exercise, but insists that a full return to play is still well down the road.
O’Rourke believes the GAA could be “moving on a bit quicker” and called for them to look at taking cases on a county-by-county basis, depending on their respective Covid-19 transmission levels.
“There’s a lot of counties where, if you go through the statistics, the rate is very low.
“We don’t have to move as one body on this. We could pick out counties where the rate is very low and say we could get back to playing.
“Billy Sheehan has come up with this program game without tackling, where you can have shadowing and things like that. It would be very good for young fellas in particular to get back out playing.
“I think there has to be a balance between risk of doing nothing and the risk of young people being locked up for a longer period of time, and the physical and mental problems that is causing in our young population.
“We should be getting these people back out, we need to get them away from their devices and get them back out.
“Physically and mentally, wellbeing is a very big issue. The GAA are being ultra-cautious on this one.
“I see golf clubs now with somebody at the gate and they’re allowing people in to play. I could see no reason why clubs couldn’t organise a similar situation where you’d have somebody on the gate, allow in groups to play their ball, another group come in after that.
“The GAA are very good at regulating things and looking after their own members’ wellbeing and their interests. I could never see any reason for locking up the walkways, it was the safest place in the world to be for a lot of people, particularly older people.
“Instead of having them on the pitches walking around, they were forcing them on to roads. I think we need to move on a bit quicker and I’d hope Dick and his group could be advising a much speedier return to action.”
Former Galway star Regan, now a sports psychologist, believes that making moves more expediently would lift a “helpless and hopeless” sense among players around the country.
“Maybe some have thrown in the towel around training, particularly in the club scene, because there’s no sign of a fixture coming or a roadmap coming. It’s worrying.
“The county players, from my experience, would be fairly motivated and will keep up their level of training, but club players who are used to routine, to team-mates and meeting managers two or three times a week and having that social outlet, that’s gone completely for them.
“They haven’t got support for them around that, and there’s a huge sense of loss around that – a loss of identity, a loss of belonging, a loss of physical activity, and just that social connection with people.
“It’s something we’ve probably taken for granted, what GAA clubs do for people around that.”