GAA Football

Ten Derry clubs shut down as precaution amid Covid-19 outbreak

Locked gates at the Limavady Wolfhounds GAC where all activities have been cancelled due to a coronaviris cluster outbreak in the local area. A Coronavirus mobile testing centre which has been set up in Limavady following the cluster outbreak of the disease in Limavady Co-Derry. Several people in the area are believed to have contracted the disease during a house party. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 17-7-2020

TEN clubs in north Derry have taken precautionary moves to close down temporarily following an outbreak of Covid-19 cases in the area.

Banagher and Craigbane had called a temporary halt to proceedings on Thursday night, and yesterday saw Ardmore, Claudy, Foreglen, Drum, Drumsurn, Limavady, Magilligan and Glack all follow suit.

A cluster of cases had been reported in the Limavady area on Thursday which had been linked by the Public Health Agency to “a social gathering in a private or residential setting”.

However, The Irish News understands that further positive tests have been recorded in the north Derry area which are not known to be linked to the same gathering.

None of the positive cases are believed to be from either the playing or coaching population in any of the GAA clubs that have decided to close down until at least Monday, although a number of players from various clubs are understood to have been tested in recent days.

The GAA's guidelines recommend that anyone with symptoms should visit their GP and in the event of a positive test, the public health authorities will determine through contact tracing “who are close or casual contacts”.

If the public health bodies define someone as a ‘close contact', the GAA stipulates that they must cease involvement immediately and not return until they have been given medical clearance.

However a ‘casual contact' is only subject to a ‘passive follow-up' for 14 days and is free to continue GAA activity as long as they are symptom free.

Ulster GAA CEO, Brian McAvoy said that the clubs' actions in shutting down are unlikely to have any significant impact on limiting the impact of the outbreak in the community.

“Some clubs have decided unilaterally to go with the blanket ban, and that's a matter for themselves.

“If you really think this thing through, are all those people involved in the club going to work? Are they interacting with anybody else?

“I can understand where the club are coming from but calling the blanket ban in itself, unless the individuals are putting in place other quarantine measures, it won't have the impact the clubs think it will.

“I'm not saying it's premature. But the guidance we've been given by the GAA's national covid-19 advisory group is that you are a casual contact until told otherwise by public health.”

In a statement, Derry GAA said that it “is aware of a number of clubs who have taken precautionary measures as part of their response to Covid-19 [in a] developing situation” and that they would “continue to operate based on the latest information and guidance available from Ulster GAA”.

Among the ten clubs that have announced a temporary stay on activity, there are several close links such as underage amalgamations and adult players who play football and hurling for separate clubs.

Challenge games between the clubs involved have been common place in recent weeks.

Structured club activity in Derry does not begin until next weekend with the start of the club hurling championship, while the football championships begin the following weekend.

With the Oak Leaf county's club schedule spread out over 11 weeks until October 4, if an outbreak was to happen during the championship, it would inevitably lead to games being forfeited.

The GAA does recommend attempting to reschedule any games that have to be postponed but McAvoy says such a scenario would probably lead to forfeitures in many counties.

“Each county will set their own rules but the guidance will be that where there's no possibility for a re-fixture given time constraints, you forfeit the game with no further penalty.”

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GAA Football