GAA Football

GAA must issue clear guidelines on Covid-19 outbreak during championships, says Down chairman Jack Devaney

Club football returns in Down this evening (Friday) with fixtures including Burren's trip to Loughinisland. Pic Philip Walsh.
Andy Watters

DOWN chairman Jack Devaney has called on GAA leadership to issue detailed guidelines for how clubs and county boards should react to an outbreak of Covid-19 during the season.

With club action returning in Down and many other counties today, Devaney says clear rules must be set down detailing the steps that need to be taken to minimise health risks, while at the same time allowing competitions to proceed.

Down club Atticall shut down their training after a member (who had not shown symptoms but took a test after a work colleague had received a positive Covid-19 result) tested positive for the virus. That pre-season incident was relatively straightforward to deal with, but Devaney asks: What happens when the season is in full swing? At the minute, nobody knows.

“As an Association, we need to be clear,” he said.

“If something happens now we are able to manage it because we haven’t started yet and we are able to take a game from this Friday and put it in somewhere else in the schedule because the league comes before and after the championship.

“But once the championship starts, we’re running from beginning to end and there’s no interruptions so we have to be guided by some kind of rules that take into account the timeframe that’s going to be there. It has to be guided from national level and we have to make sure that it’s part of our regulations, particularly for championships because everyone is operating in a more contained timeframe.

“So can it be held up? For how long can it be held up? What will the requirement for each particular case? We need to be clear on all that.”

The Atticall outbreak followed similar incidents in clubs in Cork and Dublin and Devaney predicts that more will follow.

“For us, it’s our first but across the GAA it certainly won’t be the last and it’s a matter of how we are going to manage the risk,” he said.

“It’s fairly straightforward for us in that we know it’s an isolated case and it doesn’t impact on the other fixtures and it is a bit easier to manage at this end but as we move on we are going to continue to monitor it.

“As time moves on and we move into championship and deal with cases that could happen involving teams and players it is a case of: what do we do in those situations?”

Down’s leagues begin this weekend with no supporters allowed in the grounds and that is the case throughout the North. Devaney accepted that the behind-closed-doors start was a “fairly bizarre situation” for fans but he called on them to adhere to the guidelines.

“Some of them may be frustrating and for some people they may not make a lot of sense but, at the end of the day, we are guided by the requirements that we’ve been given – be they from the GAA itself or from the NI Executive,” he said.

“We don’t tend to deviate from them and, as it stands, none of our games will have spectators at them this weekend. Now that is a fairly bizarre situation for any club or GAA member to have, when you’re heading into league competitions and you’re not allowed to attend the games but that’s the requirement that’s there.

“Indoor facilities remain closed and I think we’re well used to that at this stage because clubs have been training away and haven’t been able to access their indoor facilities. But this weekend some teams will be making a journey and they could be playing foul weather conditions and then have to get back into the car and go home.

“All these challenges are there but we know about them at the moment and we need to be able to manage as it goes along the possibility of something cropping up that may have an impact on the progression of a competition.”

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

GAA Football