Cork chair backs GAA's safety-first approach

Cork County Board chairperson Tracey Kennedy has backed Croke Park’s decision to keep GAA grounds shut until July 20.
Cork chair backs GAA's safety-first approach

Cork County Board chairperson Tracey Kennedy has backed Croke Park’s decision to keep GAA grounds shut until July 20.

Under the Government’s roadmap for exiting the lockdown, sports pitches are permitted to reopen on Monday week, May 18.

Inter-county managers Colm Collins and Davy Fitzgerald have queried the wisdom of GAA fields remaining off-limits for nine weeks beyond the Government’s recommended reopening date, but Kennedy agrees with Wednesday’s call by Croke Park.

The secondary school principal stressed the importance of continuing to prioritise public health.

“I can’t see any reason why we would do anything other than prioritise public safety and I certainly wouldn’t want to be responsible for putting anybody’s health and safety at risk,” said the Cork GAA chairperson.

“Cork are obviously going to follow national policy in something so absolutely critical as the safety of not just our members but our community at large because we have to bear in mind that all our members have families and they all have to be protected. We have to prioritise the safety of our members and communities over everything else at this present moment.

“This decision was made at national level with public safety as the absolute priority. As far as I can see, that is what has been at the heart of all decision-making by the GAA in relation to this crisis.”

While preferring not to speculate on the likelihood of a return to action later this year or at what point Croke Park must make a final call on the 2020 season, Kennedy said the GAA community must not lose hope of once again being able to step back on a pitch or offer support for their club or country from a stand, terrace, or grassy bank.

“The wait and see approach is the only option we can take at the moment. And that is not just in terms of sport. We see this in other areas of life where in education, for example there is an element of wait and see.

“I am not a doctor or public health professional, but the reality is that there is a huge amount of unknown around this virus. There is still a lot of the year left so we don’t know what is going to happen or what improvements might occur, or conversely, we don’t know whether the situation could get worse.

“I know it must be so hard for people who are missing the GAA at the moment. I can understand that as I miss it myself, obviously. But we need to remind ourselves all the time that we will return to normality and there will be games again. And as we did before, we will enjoy the games. Obviously, we all hope it is sooner rather than later. But there will be GAA games again and we have to keep that element of hope in our minds. Until then, public health and safety has to be at the forefront of all our thinking."

With July 20 identified as the earliest possible start date for a resumption of club activity, Cork’s Competitions Control Committee will meet next week to begin drawing up contingency plans as to what shape their various county championships will take if health authorities do green light the playing of contact sports in the coming months. 2020 was to be the first year of Cork’s new-look county championship format, with Premier Senior, Senior A, Premier Intermediate, Intermediate A, and Lower Intermediate (hurling only) replacing the old grading system of Senior, Premier Intermediate, and Intermediate.

“Up until last Friday, when the Government roadmap was published, we didn’t feel there was any point in wasting people’s time and energy speculating on possibilities, with regard to our own competitions, that were definitely not going to happen. That July 20 date gives us something to start planning for as we now know what is the earliest date for a possible resumption," Kennedy remarked.

“Obviously we are discussing and planning because there will be a future. The CCC is meeting next week to start looking and thinking about what that future might look like, whenever things resume. If things resume on July 20, we’ll plan for that possibility. If they don’t resume until a later date, we’ll plan for that possibility too.”

The precarious state of Cork’s finances means a year without club championship action — Cork took in €785k in gate receipts last year — would likely send county board coffers further into the red.

“It is important to understand finances and financial considerations play a secondary role to public health and the health of our members. Those are matters that will have to be considered at a stage, but we are still speculating at this stage. We will be considering all of the possibilities, in the same way that we will be considering all possibilities around our championship.

“The fact that everyone is in the same boat applies to all areas of society at the moment and it is always easier to be part of something that is a shared experience, as opposed to something you are experiencing in isolation."

The chairperson concluded: “I would really like to commend our clubs on the absolutely amazing work they are doing in their communities. I know many clubs, my own included, who are providing huge support to not just their members, but their communities.

“Clubs are playing an immense role in all kinds of ways in keeping their communities together. It reminds us of what a wonderful organisation we have.”

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