GAA warns supporters about behaviour ahead of return of inter-county games
THE GAA is developing a limited rapid testing system in order to reduce the risk of having to postpone inter-county games, which are due to re-commence next month.
Croke Park confirmed that competitions would go on even if a leading county was forced to withdraw, although Feargal McGill, Director of Player, Club and Games Administration, believes such a scenario unlikely at this stage.
Any tests will be only used in the three or four days leading up to a game if there is a positive test in a squad.
McGills emphasised the GAA’s current control measures “and just how well they've worked at club level. There's only a really tiny proportion of the thousands of games that have been scheduled had to be postponed for Covid reasons and actually in reality even that handful, they could probably have gone ahead.”
However, the Association has warned spectators about their responsibilities after the pitch invasion at Healy Park last Sunday as Dungannon Clarke’s won the Tyrone SFC title.
“In terms of preventing things like that we have to double down our efforts in terms of educating people,” said McGill.
“We can’t take it for granted that we are going to continue to be allowed attendances unless those attendances are behaving, and I think that’s fair, from government or whoever else.
“There comes a responsibility with attending a game now, a pretty serious responsibility, and if people can’t live up to that responsibility I’m sure we’ll know all about it from government and everyone else.”
With more county finals taking place this weekend, including in Cavan, Fermanagh, and Down (hurling), McGill revealed:
“We have been in contact with counties this week, particularly those that have county finals coming up, and again, look so much of this, no matter what you put in place, so much of this comes down to personal responsibility…
“So what we can do is our best as the GAA in terms of putting in the control measures we have. But I think the Ulster Council statement is fairly instructive in terms of not taking things for granted.”
Although Donegal have pushed back their county football final due to a positive Covid test in the Kilcar club, McGill effectively ruled out any Covid-enforced delays to the planned inter-county schedule due to its tight-packed nature, with some notable potential exceptions.
New regulations will mean that “we'll only be able to grant postponements where there's a 13-day window between the round where the team is looking for the postponement and the next round of the competition.
“But if you go through the [fixture schedule], there's very few instances where that's allowed. One exception to that would be All-Ireland semi-finals and finals.”
Even so, midweek dates were again firmly ruled out due to the demands on volunteers, most of whom have day jobs, meaning that many matches have been scheduled for earlier than usual throw-in times due to limited floodlit facilities in certain provinces.
The GAA’s Calendar Review Taskforce has also reconvened and will engage counties in a consultation process before December on subjects including a split season, the close season, and the scheduling of third level competitions.
The Association is also actively considering regionalising next year’s National Football League to some extent.
The League will almost certainly start later than it has done in recent years, given that the All-Ireland Football Final is set for December 19, McGill explaining:
“We have to factor in a meaningful closed season for teams. So that will affect what we do next year….I think we’re at a situation now where we know that next year is going to be an exceptional year as well, it’s not going to be a normal year. We know that now. Yeah, we can be prepared for slightly different structures next year, and maybe even timings.”
Inter-county action is set to resume at 2pm on Saturday October 17 with the meeting of Monaghan and Kerry at Inniskeen, with Antrim away to Wicklow in Aughrim (Division Four) and Westmeath hosting Laois in Ennis (Division Three) at the same time.
Half an hour later Tyrone U20s will meet their Dublin counterparts in the All-Ireland semi-final at Kingspan Breffni Park. The final is scheduled for a week later, at 4pm, with the venue to be confirmed. Those are just four of 11 games planned for that day.
Antrim’s Hurling Division 2A Final against Kerry has been set for O’Connor Park, Tullamore, on Sunday October 18 (1.30pm); just half an hour later, at the Athletic Grounds, Derry and Down are due to meet in the 2B decider.