GPA acknowledges there may be no further matches this year
‘It is our view that this current period should be used as downtime’
GPA chief executive Paul Flynn has briefed members on the outlook for a return to action. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
The Gaelic Players Association has acknowledged that there may be no further matches this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and called for an immediate break for all intercounty players. The view was expressed in a briefing note from GPA chief executive Paul Flynn to members.
“There remains the genuine possibility that we will not see any return to action this year, however. We hope that the situation will change in the coming months, but public health advice will be the guiding principle. I can assure you that we will not countenance a situation arising where players are asked to put themselves or their families and loved ones at undue risk. Your health and safety are non-negotiable.
“It is our view that this current period should be used as downtime, with a break from inter-county commitments. Feedback from squads indicates that a lot of management teams are taking this approach, and we welcome this move. We will continue to give updates as the situation develops, there are no answers as of yet, but when we have further clarity, we will provide it.”
Flynn also briefed GPA members on a series of tele-consultations between himself, former Limerick footballer Dr Jim O’Donovan the association’s medical advisor and other players’ bodies internationally.
“Although the many differences between professional sports and amateur sports make it more challenging for the GAA to overcome, this information gathering will assist us in learning more about the virus and exploring all options to a safe return to play. All of this will align with the respective public health advice.”
The statement also acknowledged the growing impatience of players, describing it as “understandable” but also recognising that health concerns remain a priority.
“Players want clarity around plans for the 2020 season. However, what is also clear is that you are in one hundred per cent agreement that public health advice and the safety of you, the players and your families is the number one priority.
“We are in constant communication with the GAA. We are working closely with them to address your key concerns which were raised on those calls, ie clarity around the fixtures calendar, clarity around return to play protocols and transparency around the role of players in any decision-making process.
“We accept that the GAA can’t deliver certainty around fixtures at this time. It is a fluid and ever-changing situation. However, what we would like to see is some further clarity around the GAA’s contingency plans for the inter-county and club season.
“The close-contact nature of the playing and training environment which surrounds our games presents a heightened risk to the welfare of players, and a considerable challenge to return to action while adhering to social distancing and public health guidelines. It is important that the GAA engage external expert medical advice, to formulate an evidence-informed decision on a safe return to play. We will continue to work with the GAA on this.”