GAA confident about Championships despite rising Covid-19 rates

Dublin hurling manager Mattie Kenny says virus is a bigger threat to teams than before

Dublin hurling manager Mattie Kenny saw his side lose to Kilkenny with a number of players absent. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Dublin hurling manager Mattie Kenny saw his side lose to Kilkenny with a number of players absent. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

 

The GAA is confident of avoiding major disruption despite the climbing numbers of Covid-19 infections, especially in the under-45 cohort, which includes all players.

Covid came calling on the championship at the weekend with cases in Armagh and Dublin forcing late changes for the Ulster football championship match in Newry and the Leinster hurling final in Croke Park.

Feargal McGill is the GAA’s leading official on Covid and a member of the association’s Covid Advisory Group as well as director of player, club and games administration. He says that to date there have been relatively few cases.

“Again, you don’t know because you can’t tell the future or what it’s going to bring. What I will say is that we have sight of any positives and the number is quite low all the time so fellas are looking after themselves. There’s no doubt about that.

“I would describe the situation as ‘challenging’ but will the championships be completed? Yes, they will.”

He believes however that the weekend’s events should be a reminder to all players and panel to observe public health protocols. Given the nature of the virus, cases are inevitable.

“The thing is that it’s challenging. The numbers in the community are high so they’re going to be high in our community as well. The key thing for us and every county team out there is that whereas it’s very hard to avoid contracting the virus, it’s a lot easier to avoid being designated a close contact.

“That’s the vital thing for us. Fellas have to make sure they don’t travel in cars together. They have to make sure that they minimise indoors activity as much as possible.

“Look, people have to go to work. They have to go to the shops and all of these places. There is community transmission - therefore people will get the virus. The key for the GAA’s season is that players do everything in their power and panels do everything in their power to ensure they don’t become close contacts.”

McGill also said that the GAA have taken no action to secure vaccinations for intercounty panels because they wouldn’t seek special treatment or try to enforce vaccination.

“It’s not something we’ve looked into. Vaccines are widely available through pharmacies at this stage if people want it. It’s public health who look after this and we’re reluctant to end up shouting for GAA players to get preferential treatment.

“It’s also a personal health choice so it’s not something we’re pursuing.”

Reactions to the vaccination can also be unpredictable and some managers might be reluctant to take that risk with the season coming to a climax.

Dublin hurling manager Mattie Kenny was asked about vaccination for players after Saturday evening’s defeat by Kilkenny, which four of his panel, starters Ronan Hayes and Cian O’Callaghan plus panellists Fergal Whitely and Oisín O’Rorke missed because of infection and close contact.

“I’d imagine very, very few. I was talking to our guys two weeks ago, or whenever the government said that the vaccinations were there in the pharmacies. I asked guys to look for that but I haven’t got enough details.

“I believe the pharmacies haven’t got the vaccines at the moment so I’d love if early next week some of our guys could get vaccinated. But they have the same right and no more of a right than anybody else in the population so they’ve just got to wait their turn. To answer your question I’d say very, very few of the guys have been vaccinated, if any.”

He also said that he believed the virus posed a greater threat to teams than at any previous time.

“I think we all have to be conscious of that. This delta variant is hitting that 15-to 30-year-old age group. I think for all club and county teams, we’re in more danger than we were anytime in the last 18 months because this is so widespread in the younger population.

“I think we’ve all just got to double down and we have been doing that because all intercounty teams are kind of operating in their own bubble. This came a little bit out of left-field on us in the last few days.”

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