'We don't expect county managers to be happy'
THE GAA admits they don’t expect county managers to be happy at having to wait until September for access to players, but believe the idea is realistic.
Under the association’s roadmap for a return to action released yesterday, the club game can return from July 31 and will have an 11-week window to finish its championships.
The inter-county championships are pencilled to begin “no earlier” than October 17, but that they will be able to resume group training as a unit from September 14.
Even that date is likely to cause conflict if it comes to it, given that clubs who reach the latter stages of their own championships could find themselves caught in a tug-of-war over players.
GAA roadmap to return
Phase 2 – June 8
- Walking tracks open for groups of up to 4 people
- Individual training at home
- All other GAA grounds remain closed
- No games, or team or small group training permitted on GAA facilities
- All clubrooms and dressing room facilities closed
- Covid-19 protocols related to training to be developed in line with ‘Return to Play’ requirements and medical advice.
Phase 3 – June 29
- All GAA pitches open
- Training to restart for all ages in small groups only
- GAA buildings to remain closed
- No games
- Only players and management allowed on pitches
- Social distancing maintained during training
- Full revised inter county calendar to be agreed
Phase 4 – July 20
- All forms of training allowed
- Club games for all ages allowed from July 31
- GAA buildings to remain closed
- Contract tracing for players and management
- Temperatures taken and questionnaire filled by everyone before each session
- Parent/guardian must drop off and collect children
Phase 5 – August 10
- Club games continue
- GAA buildings reopen
- Inter-county training can restart on September 14
- No inter-county games until at least October 17
The GAA did, however, say that no county would be forced to run a straight knockout championship and that it was up to each individual county board to decide how it would use the 11-week window for club games.
“I think we are presented with a particular problem here, a shortened calendar and we can't deliver everything we would like to deliver to either county player or club player,” said the GAA’s Director of Player, Club and Games Administration, Feargal McGill.
“It is a matter for each county as to how they will run their club championships. It is up to them to come up with their structures in terms of the inter-county championship.”
No structures are yet in place for the inter-county championships, which may run into January and February of next year if required.
The GAA is likely to alter the layout of the championships and says it will reveal its plans after it moves into phase three of its roadmap on June 29.
No decision has yet been made on whether the Allianz Leagues will be finished, although the GAA did reiterate its hope that they would be able to finish the football leagues and the lower hurling leagues where promotion and relegation was affected.
Speaking on a conference call with members of the media, the GAA’s leadership were also at pains to insist that no player should feel forced into returning to games if they are not completely comfortable.
A white paper by StatSports on the amount of time players spend in close proximity to each other during games gave as much cause for concern as it did optimism.
The average incursion within a 2-metre zone of an opponent was mere seconds, but the paper also stated that during an inter-county game, each player was exposed to an average of 539 incursions per game.
“We still think all the information is that if you’re training outdoor, there’s minimal transmission of the virus,” said Donegal team doctor, Dr Kevin Moran, a member of the GAA’s advisory group for Covid-19.
“The group are very strong that players have to be able to make up their owns minds, without pressure.
“I understand what happens in clubs but individuals have to be able to do their own clinical risk benefit analysis, where they weigh up the risk that may be posed to themselves against the enormous benefits they’re going to get from being involved from being involved in a team environment – physical, psychological and social.
“Having been involved with clubs myself over the years, you can see where there’s attempts to put pressure on players in particular ways.
“Players have to be strong enough to stand up for themselves and resist that, if their judgement tells them otherwise.”
Feargal McGill added that as confidence returns to society, the GAA hopes that returning to the local club will come naturally to people over the coming weeks.
“One of the reasons we’re aligned to the government roadmap is that as the government moves on to every step, society gets greater confidence,” said McGill.
“You’ll have people going down to the shop. Our job as a committee, as a GAA, as clubs, is to ensure that by going to your GAA club, you’re as safe as you are going to the shop, essentially. That’s where we’re trying to get to.
“As the government moves on to every step, we anticipate greater confidence in society.
“Of course we don’t want pressure on people, but I think it will naturally follow as more and more confidence goes into society, people will be doing more and more normal things with every step, and GAA is one of those normal things to do.”