GAA Football

Pete McGrath has some social distancing reservations as lockdown continues to ease

Pete McGrath has some issues with social distancing but is looking forward to a return to Gaelic Games

WITH the GAA's roadmap looking like it found another turn of pace yesterday, Down legend Pete McGrath sees a “contradiction” over social distancing rules and struggles to “square that circle” when it comes to playing Gaelic Games.

The Irish government signed off on contact training being brought forward to June 29, a significant step change from the proposed July 20 point for full contact, which means the GAA can potentially start competitive action earlier than July 31 and create more time to finish club championships.

Of course, the Association could stick to its original roadmap with its original dates.

While under a different jurisdiction, GAA clubs in the six counties have consistently taken their lead from Croke Park and will continue to do so. In any case, both north and south appear to be agreeing on many issues relating to the easing of lockdown.

The GAA is also expected to announce its intentions to play the last two rounds of the National Leagues before an old-style Championship format kicks into gear at the end of October.

Provincial winners will advance to the All-Ireland semi-finals and supporters will be treated to a December 13 All-Ireland final. There will be no Super 8s or knock-out All-Ireland quarter-finals in 2020.

The Irish government said up to 200 people will be permitted for outdoor events from June 29 and that number would increase to 500 from July 20.

In the ever-changing Covid19 landscape, the Stormont Executive on Thursday announced that it is in favour of one-metre social distancing rules rather than the previous two in a bid to see schools functioning closer to capacity come September.

Rostrevor manager McGrath is relieved to see a roadmap back to the playing field again, but had some understandable reservations.

“I still see a potential issue here,” he said. “Social distancing is still the big dilemma. I know they say contact with people in the open air and open spaces is a lot less dangerous than in enclosed spaces. If there's any kind of social distancing operating – and I think there will be in the community generally – I still see a contradiction to some extent in football being played.

“Now, the medical people and all the experts are giving us their blessing that there is minimum risk, we'll say: ‘Okay, we'll go with it.'

“All of this is contingent on a good outcome in terms of what way the virus is going, and hopefully it will still be abating as it seems to be doing at the moment. When the lockdown eases and there is more contact it might prompt a second spike. I don't know, I'm no expert. I suppose that is the risk you have to take.”

McGrath has spoken to a number of his players in recent weeks and although no-one has intimated that they won't be returning to play, their manager won't be putting any of them under pressure to play.

“I know the players that I have spoken to are positive and they're very keen to get back. If some players aren't happy about coming back to training I understand that.”

And there's a lot of things a club has to do, taking precautions and sanitation and abiding by rules and people not using changing rooms and all those things.

“It's going to be awkward but we're living in awkward times. If you want to get back to training and playing football these are the things we have to do.”

McGrath added: “Whenever we look back on this year we'll hopefully be saying the GAA made all the right calls.”

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GAA Football