GAA reopening questions: Pitch anomalies. The clerical load on clubs. And the county player who can't train with anyone

Mike Quirke and Anthony Daly are celebrating the GAA's return to play plan, but say there are many questions to answer.
GAA reopening questions: Pitch anomalies. The clerical load on clubs. And the county player who can't train with anyone

What happens the county player whose club is knocked out in the first round of the championship?

That’s one of the many questions Anthony Daly and Mike Quirke posed on the Irish Examiner GAA podcast, as they discussed the GAA’s guidelines on a safe return to Gaelic Games.

But the pair were mainly in celebratory mood on a landmark day, as the country took another step towards emerging from Covid-19 lockdown.

“Great news, first of all. We were all dreading having no games,” said Daly. “People were even talking about next year if there was no vaccine.

“It sounds very very exciting that we will have a winter All-Ireland, that we will have county finals at the normal time, played around October 11, which is standard for most counties.

“I’m delighted and excited. Mike will hopefully be there on the sideline in Croke Park in the Leinster Final in November and I’d be delighted to be in a cozy studio afterwards commenting on a hurling game.

“But there are an awful lot of questions. I’d still be saying why are we leaving the pitches closed when Leo Varadkar is announcing that 15 guys or girls can train together. And we’re leaving our pitches closed for another three and a half weeks.”

Laois manager Quirke echoed those sentiments, but he was also perplexed as to why GAA pitches will remain closed off to members until June 29.

“It’s good we have a definite idea that we are going to have games. That was in doubt until the last couple of weeks.

“We all want to be guided by the experts. But in light of the way the government has accelerated the whole process, it seems the GAA are still a little bit behind where the government are in their thinking on the danger of the virus at the moment.

“I do think we’re missing a trick that we’re not opening a little quicker. Even for the social aspect.”

Even when pitches do open, initially for non-contact training, Daly wondered if the guidelines will throw up some anomalies and expressed concern for the heavy administrative load the process will place on smaller clubs.

“On the guidelines, we’re only allowed groups of 10 with two mentors in the initial phase, while the government is telling us 15 guys can meet up in the local park. So for me that’s a bit confusing.

“There are a few clubs around the country — Corofin in Galway being one, and there's a few in Clare — who operate out of a community pitch. Could they go back training tomorrow night at 7 o'clock, 15 of them, with 15 more at 8 o’clock.

“And there’s a massive amount of personnel and clerical work going to be needed. Temperature checks and the forms that will have to be filled out every night.

“It could be tough going for some small clubs. But when we thought we had nothing you had a lot of lads saying they’d travel 20 miles to do umpire if they could watch a game. So you will have dormant members of clubs who will step up. And like everything else in a small club you will have lads double-jobbing and triple-jobbing.”

Quirke noted another potential difficulty if counties are forced to run knockout championships in the short timeframe available to them.

“If a club team gets beaten in the first round, and there are three or four guys from the county panel knocked out in early August, we’re telling them they can’t train with the county for another four or five weeks until mid September. That needs a little bit of tweaking.”

The guidelines make it clear that any member who has a concern regarding a personal higher health risk, or risk to a family member or household contact, should take medical advice before returning to play.

And Quirke emphasised that no player should ever be put under pressure to play.

“If someone has a concern then he doesn't play. There’s no question. If your health is any way in question, or you’re living with someone in a vulnerable position and you don’t feel comfortable playing, then I certainly wouldn't be putting anyone under pressure and I don't think any manager should.

“These are all individual decisions. And I’m sure there will be cases like that. And if they choose that, there will be no recriminations from anyone.”

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