The chairman of a West Cork GAA club forced to suspend activity last week over coronavirus fears says players will have to significantly limit their social interactions in the coming weeks if county championship programs are to be successfully run off.
Ballinascarthy was one of three West Cork clubs who temporarily paused GAA activity after players from the club came into contact with an individual who tested positive for Covid-19.
Ballinascarthy chairman JJ Walsh said the events of last week highlight the importance of players reducing their social interactions if further episodes of clubs having to down tools for periods of three and four days are to be avoided.
Cork club Glanworth, Man O’War in Dublin, and Down club Atticall are currently in lockdown after a club member in each of the three clubs tested positive for coronavirus. Walsh is fearful many more clubs will end up in the same suspended state over the coming weeks.
“We are down to a small number of daily cases, but we do have instances of the virus at the player age level, the U30s. As they are going out and about, one has to be more wary. It was a wake-up call for us all what happened last week. It makes most of us very, very aware that you only mix where absolutely necessary,” Walsh remarked.
“I have been chatting to one or two doctors over the past month. They really feel it has been very hard on the youngsters - the people aged between 18 and 30 - that they haven't been able to get out and socialise.
I am a pensioner. I can survive at a leisurely pace of life. It is easy enough to keep me going.
“But the younger people, they want to socialise and interact, and that is quite difficult in the current climate. It is fairly obvious now that for the period of the hurling and football program that they have to stay on the periphery when it comes to the social side of things.”
Glanworth chairman Liam Brennan told this newspaper earlier in the week that he believes it will take a Covid-19 death arising from GAA activity for the shutters to be pulled down on the 2020 season.
Walsh's view is that if contact tracing shows GAA activity to be contributing to the spread of the virus then the already truncated season must be halted.
“If the GAA is responsible for the spreading of the virus, then they have to look at the season as a whole. If one of our players is left with a lasting mark because of contracting the virus, that is the last thing we would want and it would be a salutary lesson for all of us. Hopefully, it won't happen.
“We do have to be extremely cautious. This virus is going to be with us for a long time. We do have to try and live with it, and play with it as much as anything else from the point of view of our sports.”
The Ballinascarthy chairman welcomed yesterday’s announcement that dressing-rooms will remain shut until further notice.
“The next difficulty I see is with respect to umpires, linesmen, and referees. I suspect linesmen and umpires will be highlighting the smallest little row going, with the referee then stopping the play and telling the players in question, ‘we can't have personal contact, stick to the ball’. Referees will have to be extra vigilant. Minimum contact between the players has to be advocated. That’s going to be hard to practice, of course.”
Reflecting on last week’s temporary cessation of activity, Walsh said: “The fact we had St Oliver Plunkett's and Argideen Rangers in the same boat, our problem was shared. If we were on our own, people might have been looking at the club and saying, 'could the club have done anything better', but this was an innocent situation.”
The three clubs resumed training earlier this week after all club members tested in each of the three clubs returned negative results.