GAA Football

County boards in the North keep changingrooms locked despite GAA and NI Health Service go-ahead

No entry. Changingrooms remain closed in Down and several other Ulster counties
Andy Watters

MOST county boards in the North are keeping changingrooms locked despite the GAA and the NI Health Service giving the go-ahead for club premises to be opened earlier this month.

Last weekend, teams were permitted to use the facilities at the Athletic Grounds for the Armagh Senior Club Championship double-header but players were not allowed to use the showers.

Changingrooms have also reopened in Derry but in Tyrone, Down, Fermanagh and Antrim they remain closed despite a directive from the NI Health Service on September 15 that they can be used.

Sport NI advised clubs to: “Take all reasonable steps to ensure sanitiser provision continues and adequate ventilation arrangements are in place.

“Ensure that proper circulation arrangements are in place and continue to be observed to minimise the risk of transmission. Encourage players to minimise the time spent in shower/changing areas and that these are frequently cleaned. Sanitisation of all shared equipment after use is recommended.”

A GAA statement issued earlier this month reiterated that advice and added that “usage should be avoided or minimised where possible”.

"In the North, dressing rooms are now permitted to open but usage should be avoided or minimised where possible (for example, by arriving in kit and showering at home) and time spent in dressing rooms should be kept to a minimum,” read the statement.

“For this reason, and as in the South, it is strongly recommended that pre-game or half-time team talks should continue to take place outdoors. In both jurisdictions, where dressing rooms are being used, hand sanitization stations should be in place at the entrance, the areas should be well ventilated (i.e., windows or doors left open), masks should be worn (except if using showers) and no one other than team or support personnel should be permitted entry."

Ulster Council secretary Brian McAvoy explained that the decision on whether to reopen changingrooms for games had been left in the hands of individual county boards.

“They can open,” he said.

“Counties have all been notified – there was communication from Croke Park letting them know what they can and can't do.

“It's a matter for each county board but (if they permit it) you can use them. They've been told that people should be in them for as short a time as possible but they can be used.”

He added: “The weather is still okay, so some of the county boards are keeping them closed for as long as they can get away with it to keep people that bit safer.”

Of course, there are issues associated with the use of changingrooms. If the facilities are used, they need to be thoroughly cleaned and sanitised afterwards and, perhaps with that in mind, Tyrone are among the county boards that have opted to keep changingrooms closed.

Clonoe manager Stevie McDonnell has been critical of that decision. His O'Rahilly's side take on Edendork on October 10 and McDonnell says the changingroom facilities should be provided for the players.

“October is a month which normally sees a lot of rainfall and the temperature dramatically drops,” writes McDonnell in his Irish News column.

“On top of this, Edendork do not have a covered stand area, so where exactly do they (the Tyrone County Board) expect both teams to change and for managers and coaches to deliver team talks if the rain is belting down like it was during our recent league match against Donaghmore?

“While Tyrone get a lot of things right terms of their organising and planning, this is the wrong decision in my opinion.”

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