Open GAA pitches to help people’s mental health, pleads Davy Fitzgerald

Davy Fitzgerald does not believe the GAA authorities are giving enough consideration to the mental health of its members by keeping pitches closed.
Open GAA pitches to help people’s mental health, pleads Davy Fitzgerald
Davy Fitzgerald: “The numbers (new cases) are now dropping each day and are very low right now. Do we want to keep living our own lives nervously or do we want to get back out there?" Photo:David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Davy Fitzgerald does not believe the GAA authorities are giving enough consideration to the mental health of its members by keeping pitches closed.

Voicing his support for the inter-county scene to return ahead of club competitions on the grounds of safety, the Wexford and Sixmilebridge manager also called on Croke Park to allow clubs to open fields as soon as possible.

“Safety is essential,” he told the Irish Examiner.

“I totally understand it, I have a heart condition and I live with somebody (his uncle John) who has underlying conditions. I’m not underestimating the disease for a second.

“But you have to look at this from both sides. You have to understand the mental health side of things for people, especially those from the age of 30 down.

"They’re used to going out into the field, used to exercising and they could do in a controlled way under the Government guidelines.

“It’s times like these we need the GAA to the fore but I don’t know if they’re looking at the health issue in the grander scheme of things.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with a vaccine. We’re going to have to learn to do certain things and learn to live with this disease. And we can in a controlled environment.

“The numbers (new cases) are now dropping each day and are very low right now. Do we want to keep living our own lives nervously or do we want to get back out there?

“I believe GAA clubs should be open. We have got to trust our own people. While everyone won’t be perfect, we have got to trust our own people.

"The GAA and its grounds are the hub of the community so it’s a shame to see club gates locked. For people at home who have medical conditions, as to whether they use the walk track, they will be able make their own decision.

“Whatever about games, it’s important to have players back exercising once they stay within the Government guidelines.

"I’m hopeful this will happen for its important to have people exercise. Should there be no games during the summer, just fine, then drop down to groups of four, which would be important.

"That would give the players an option, the fact they could do stuff in fours, once they stay within the guidelines, should be encouraged, for it would be good for their mental health.”

It is the GAA’s intention to resume activities with club matches, a plan endorsed by Wexford chairman Derek Kent, but 2013 All-Ireland winning manager Fitzgerald sees the county game as the safer option.

“My feeling is county should come first given it would be more capable to have a controlled aspect to it. It would be a more controlled environment with say 25 to 30 players involved.

“I know the GAA wants a county championship (for clubs) and we want the same thing.

"But everything is going from week to week and if the trend keeps going at the minute where the rate of infection is well down, and you have to hand it to all the people who have taken the regulations seriously.

"But we know the circumstances are there at the moment and we just can’t do it.

“This all needs more thinking. While I don’t have a preference which goes first, just being logical about the whole thing, the club players are not even back training, while inter-county players have been training since

December.

“I know the club scene also being involved with my own club, Sixmilebridge. I also realise the health issues involved in arriving at a decision.

"I have my own health problems but once there’s a return to action I will be there. For the players it’s a personal decision, no pressure will be applied.

“If you look at the logistics, 32 teams, hurling and football, backroom management teams, you’re probably talking 2,500 people.

"So to manage the county scene is easier than to manage the clubs. We know that there are tens of thousands of club members, so I don’t think we should start with the clubs first.

"It would be a lot easier to monitor the county scene and if it’s played in front of smaller crowds or behind closed doors it would give a lot of people a lift but there’s a lot of talking still to be done.”

Wexford players have continued to work away on programmes designed by the strength and conditioning team.

“They all have their own individual plans which are being monitored but we are looking forward to the day when we can come back,” added Fitzgerald.

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