Former GAA President Christy Cooney has welcomed tomorrow’s Special Congress being held by the GAA.
The Congress will temporarily hand over power to change the structure of the championships to the GAA’s management committee, a move Cooney has described as “positive and responsible”.
GAA secretary-general Tom Ryan has outlined the possibility of the Association losing out on €60 million if the inter-county championships do not go ahead this summer, and Cooney expects the GAA to be “responsible in dealing with this challenge”.
“That’s a bridge that the Association is going to have to cross in due course but it wouldn’t be the first time the GAA has faced a challenge and it has always responded well to past challenges.
“I’m sure the GAA will be responsible in dealing with this challenge as well. If it’s not coming in then you can’t pay it out, but if you’re not playing games then you don’t have the expense of training players at club or inter-county level, which lowers costs.
“So you have to measure it sensibly. That’s the best advice that could be given: for county boards, provincial councils, Croke Park, clubs, all levels, just to be sensible. And that’s there at the moment.
“The Special Congress shows that the Association isn’t just standing still but is doing what needs to be done to manage the Association at this difficult time.
“All the Congress has in mind is to give management within the GAA the power to be able to take decisions, something it wouldn’t have had in the past when such decisions were made in Congress.
I think it’s a very positive and responsible move which will enable us to react quickly if things change, either in a negative or a positive way. And I’m sure the Association will be responsible in doing so.
Cooney welcomed the efforts of GAA clubs to help their communities all around the country during the lockdown.
“You can see the support GAA clubs are giving the older generation in particular in their communities, in helping them and advising them in any way they can.
“The GAA has always shown that leadership, and it won’t ever change. What we are, fundamentally, is part of the community — that’s where we’ve come from and that’s where we’ve always been.
"And you can see that in another way in the GAA’s partnerships with SuperValu and Centra, with clubs supporting them, and pharmacies and other outlets.
We’d all love to see our teams back on the field of play, and I’m particularly sad that our kids can’t play the games — I’m sure there are children all over Ireland who are very frustrated that they can’t play, they’re hitting balls against walls and want to be back out on the playing fields.
“I’d love to see those games back — I think adults will be able to handle that, and as adults we realise the health and wellbeing of the entire community is more important than anything else, but I feel very sorry for kids.”
The Youghal clubman, who was GAA President from 2009 to 2012, said the general acceptance of government guidelines by the majority of people has been “outstanding” during the lockdown.
“I think in general the maturity of the country has been outstanding in this crisis, across the board.
"People have really bought into the advice the government and HSE have been giving, and I think those two bodies have acted very responsibly and tried to do things in a way that’s measured and fair to people.
People have responded to that very well, particularly the older generation. It’s very challenging for everybody, but I think the older generation, being cut off from their children, and their grandchildren in particular, has found that particularly difficult.
“But older people have responded to that very well and shown great leadership to the rest of the country, and that’s an example that the GAA has had to follow as well.
“We can’t do what we’d like to do — we’d all like to see the teams back training, the games back and people going to see them as we usually do, but we can’t. And I think the leadership on that issue within the GAA has been very responsible.”
As for a return to playing games, whether at club or inter-county level, Cooney said that’s a call for higher authorities: “That decision should only be made on the advice of the HSE and the Government.
“My view would be that we shouldn’t be jumping to any decision on running off the club championships in a short space of time, for instance, given the danger of not being able to put social distancing into operation. That would be a serious challenge.
“We’d all love to have our games back, but this situation is far more serious.”