GAA Football

GAA Covid-19 return 'a shambles' in Armagh claims club player

The GAA have published strict guidelines for a return to GAA action
Andy Watters

AN Armagh club player has contacted The Irish News to claim that the GAA's Covid-19 return schedule in his county is “a shambles”.

The player, who did not wish to be named, told how he'd been pressurised to get involved in a training session this week involving his club's entire 30-man squad, despite having a “high risk” relative.

GAA regulations state that on-field training cannot resume until June 29 but the player claims that many clubs are now flouting the rules and ignoring the potentially devastating health risks posed to them and their families.

“The new Covid return for club level is a shambles,” he claimed.

“We're not supposed to be back at all until June 29 and it is supposed to be non-impact training with social distancing in groups of 10, then full training from the third week in July.

“But every team that I know of are basically back in full training and it's very dangerous. Our first league game come two weeks after we're supposedly allowed to touch each other for the first time and then we have three games in eight days - Friday, Wednesday, Saturday.

“We all come into contact with high risk people in the community and we're being pressured to get involved in drills with 30 lads – all with bare hands, sweating, spitting on their hands for grip etc and handling the same balls.”

The GAA has issued detailed guidelines for a return to play to every club in Ireland but the Association has put no sanctions in place for any club proven to have flouted their rules.

“It's our preference to avoid the sanctions route if at all possible,” said a spokesperson.

“We will review that position if the need arises.”

The player claimed that some neighbouring clubs were already engaging in “full contact” training "three times a week" and that the situation had been unwittingly created, in part, by his county board's match schedule. Despite a truncated programme of one-off league games (there is no home and away format this season), there will be relegation and promotion as normal and he said there had been a domino effect in his county and that when one club decided not to obey the GAA guidelines, others did the same in fear of being left behind when the season begins.

“To be promoted or relegated over a few games is a poor and disrespectful way to treat players who have fought hard for their places in each division,” said the experienced player.

“One team going all-out training is scaring the other teams into doing the same. The league should be cancelled or played as friendlies with promotion and relegation postponed for the year. Have a championship for the ‘joy' or ‘tradition' but with no promotion attached and the player welfare element of having three games in eight days after having been in full training for about two weeks should speak for itself.

“If relegation and promotion was taken off the table it completely does away with the pressure teams are under. Even though I think it's madness I can understand the pressure because I don't want to see us relegated and with one club training three times-a-week already, what choice do we have?

“I think the only way to resolve this is to take relegation off the table. Another issue which isn't as big, but is relevant is that people haven't socialised or seen friends and family in four months.

“We got our schedule through there and we're playing a game basically every Sunday between August and November which means no socialising for us (again because promotion and relegation remains on the cards).”

GAA clubs are not permitted to return to on-field training until June 29 and even then it should be on a limited, non-contact basis. Full training can resume on July 20 with club competitions throwing in across the county on July 31.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football