GAA selfish to look for crowd increase, says Tom Ryan

Former Limerick boss believes the GAA should be grateful that they are staging any games at all during a pandemic
GAA selfish to look for crowd increase, says Tom Ryan
Former Limerick manager Tom Ryan. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The GAA were selfish in looking for crowd limit for outdoor events to be lifted from 200 people, claims former Limerick manager Tom Ryan.

Last Friday week, GAA president John Horan called for the Government to reassess its decision to retain the restriction until August 10 when it’s expected it will rise to 500.

The Northern Ireland Executive has since permitted up to 400 people for outdoor events in the six counties.

However, Ryan believes the GAA should be grateful that they are staging any games at all during a pandemic.

“I would be thinking that the club championships being run off and being played is a success in itself. I’m not particularly worried about the numbers allowed to go to matches. If they can control the 200 then that’s good enough and it seems that the guidelines are being followed.

“I know the figures are being very tight and supporters aren’t getting to games but at least the games are being played and I would be in favour of the 200 figure being maintained. I think by looking for more it was wrong of John Horan. It was a bit of a mistake, I think. 

It showed a bit of selfishness I think as well because it wasn’t so long ago that they were kind of saying we would have no championships. There’s a mixed message and we need the GAA being in every parish and crossroads in the country to be setting an example, not to be looking after themselves.

“What’s more important than numbers is the protocols being followed and the highest safest precautions being taken. I don’t see how the GAA can look for more. If they get the championship played then that’s what matters. 

"There are plenty of ways for people to follow the games with local radio, streaming, and TV.” 

Now 76, Ryan would have no problem attending a game but had not sought a ticket for any of the recent Limerick club hurling championship fixtures because of the huge interest in them.

However, he accepts there is a risk attached to attending a match.

“The advice from the health authorities is not to go into crowded areas and people would have a fear of that as well, and I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

“It’s obviously a serious loss-making financial situation for the GAA but then Horse Racing Ireland have been even stricter and they have fined some of their biggest names (trainers Aidan and Donnacha O’Brien were banned and fined for failing to enter the Curragh through the health screening area) and they’re running the Galway Races this week behind closed doors.

“They’re suffering a huge hit.

“It’s the players I have a lot of sympathy for because there’s a falseness to the atmosphere they’re playing in because there are such small crowds that there is little interaction. It’s like playing challenge games in terms of who’s there. 

"The more the championships goes on, the more that will be felt but I say it again, at least the competitions are being played.

“I know there is a bit void there at the minute without the crowds. Myself, I wouldn’t have been in favour of matches going ahead at all. I’d be very worried about the maintaining of the distancing and the protocols. That would be very important.

“It’s a false situation as far as traditions and crowds go but you’re in a very unusual situation.

“Who would have thought we would be in the situation that has developed in the country?

“We have a lot to be thankful for and to the authorities for helping to keep the numbers of positive cases under control.” Ryan, who guided Limerick to two Munster titles and two All-Ireland finals in 1994 and ‘96, has little sympathy for the GAA as the 200 limit impacts their opportunity to generate funds. What he does support is the truncated inter-county season if it means inter-county costs are significantly reduced.

“The cost of preparing county teams is an absolute scandal. It’s out of control. If any of those counties went into liquidation, I wouldn’t lose an hour’s sleep over it because the spending regimes being carried out, the money being paid out to people, most of who are phonies anyway.

“I saw a club team training last week and they all had GPSs on their backs. ‘Lord Jaysus,’ I said to myself: ‘Where are we going?’ Now this crowd hasn’t two pennies to rub together and there was no social distancing in the dugouts and there was a barbeque as well afterwards.

“The GAA are a cash-rich organisation but where they spent it, I don’t know. The GAA had €70m revenue last year. I’m only a small farmer here and I would be a lot more worried about my finances than the GAA’s.”

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