Ex-Donegal ace Kevin Cassidy joins calls for GAA pitches to open before July 20

Gaoth Dobhair stalwart Kevin Cassidy has added his voice to calls for the GAA to reconsider its July 20 date for reopening pitches. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin
Gaoth Dobhair stalwart Kevin Cassidy has added his voice to calls for the GAA to reconsider its July 20 date for reopening pitches. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

FORMER Donegal star Kevin Cassidy has joined the chorus of calls imploring the GAA to open up pitches before July 20 - despite a statement ruling out any change in the situation until at least the end of next month.

The GAA yesterday said it had it had no plans to reopen pitches and playing areas, or to allow teams to return to training in small groups, as part of phase two of the Irish government's easing of Covid-19 restrictions, which is due to come into place on June 8. The Association has said it will review the matter when phase three is due to begin on June 29.

However Cassidy, following on from similar calls by Kilkenny hurler TJ Reid and Armagh All-Ireland winner Steven McDonnell in the past week, feels there is a need for the GAA to consider the bigger picture.

“Definitely, 100 per cent, I would like to see it,” said the Gaoth Dobhair veteran, speaking before yesterday’s GAA statement.

“Even now, when I drive down to do my own training, I’m going past the pitch and about 100 yards down the road to do it on a green area,” he said.

“Even for your head, just to be able to do something and get the boots back on, it would be nice. The GAA is a massive part of who we all are and when that’s taken away, you’re not the same person. 

“Senior teams will have their WhatsApp groups and their structures and things to do, but what about the U12s, the U13s – are we losing them? Are they just hanging about now? It’s so important we keep those young people involved.

“This isn’t something that only affects rural areas either. If you think of Dublin, Belfast or wherever, it’s easy to sit in somebody’s house as a young lad and have a few cans of beer.

“If football’s not there, that might be one of the options to take where if there are pitches open, a wee bit of competitiveness, they might stay away from that.”

July 20 was also the date that the Irish government indicated sports like Gaelic games and soccer could resume for competitive activity, provided spectator numbers can be limited and social distancing maintained. The GAA subsequently suggested the club season would lead into a possible inter-county Championship in October. 

Although it is hoped that football can return after July 20 Cassidy - who spearheaded Gaoth Dobhair’s 2018 Ulster Club charge - admits there will still be a concern until confirmation is received.

“There definitely is that worry. I haven’t touched a ball since the county final and I’m itching to get going.

“Younger lads might not be too worried about it and when this all started, I was thinking it’ll not impact club because it doesn’t start until September. Even there this evening after doing my running, you’re thinking ‘it’s going to be decision time now because there mightn’t be club’. It’s coming towards the stage now where they’re going to have to make a call on it.

“That is worrying because it would be a year gone, and I’ll be 39 by the time training starts next year. Will the legs be there? 

“I’ve always been one of those people who wouldn’t be there unless I felt I could contribute something; I wouldn’t want to be someone they couldn’t get rid of.

“Last year was supposed to be it but, the way things finished [Gaoth Dobhair lost to Naomh Conaill after two replays in the Donegal final], we weren’t happy with how things went so we decided to put the shoulder to the wheel again and see what we have.

“Obviously we don’t know yet what we have because we haven’t been able to get out on the pitch this year.”