Antrim chief Ciaran McCavana: GAA needs to fight "tooth and nail" to get elite status reinstated
ANTRIM chairman Ciaran McCavana wants the GAA leadership to fight “tooth and nail” to get ‘elite’ status reinstated as quickly as possible following the surprise news inter-county teams were no longer deemed as such by the Irish government.
Last year, the GAA managed to run off their inter-county championships under level five lockdown restrictions – the highest in the country - because they’d been granted ‘elite’ status.
The process of how ‘elite’ status was there one minute and gone the next has surprised and angered many Gaels.
McCavana admitted he was “shocked” to hear that restarting the inter-county season had run into more difficulty.
“I can’t rationalise how elite status hasn’t been removed from other sports – i.e. soccer and rugby,” said the Antrim chief. “It’s up to the leadership of the GAA to fight tooth and nail to ensure elite status is reinstated as soon as possible. It’s a huge blow to the GAA.”
Taoiseach Micheál Martin subsequently painted a slightly brighter picture for the resumption of Gaelic Games – still estimated to be after Easter - and explained the Association’s ‘elite’ status effectively lapsed at the end of 2020.
The prospect of playing the both the National Leagues and Championship with several months shaven off the GAA calendar is a big ask.
It promised to be a hugely exciting year for Antrim’s hurling and football teams. The hurlers returned to the top table of hurling in both League and Championship while there has been plenty of anticipation surrounding the footballers under Tyrone man Enda McGinley.
“It not only affects our ability to train and play but it will also affect funding going forward,” McCavana added.
“If we’re not deemed elite athletes we won’t get funding and all the player welfare that comes through the GPA as well could be impacted.”
The Naomh Eanna clubman also said there needed to be a roadmap for clubs and juvenile sports to return to the field having been effectively locked down since mid-October.
“The inter-county teams created a bit of light in the darkness of Covid last year. So it’s important we get our county teams back playing and then we move as quickly and as safely as possible to getting our children and our clubs back out on the grass.
“If a school opened on a Monday we would have our coaches back that same day if we are allowed back in the school because kids need to have a love of sport. My own kids are very active and very sporty but outside of doing Irish Dancing they’re not doing a lot else.
“It’s a stepping stone process because you’re demonstrating your county teams can return to play safely and the next step the clubs can return to play safely. We need to get young people out and get them enjoying the physical and mental benefits of sport and participating in sport.
“There was almost a novelty with zoom calls at the start of the pandemic but it has worn off. While zoom training does keep people in contact, it’s not the same enjoyment, and kids don’t get the same enjoyment out of it compared to meeting their friends on the field.”