Ulster secretary calls on young people to get vaccinated ahead of club championships

‘It is incumbent on all of us to take whatever measures we can to reduce the risk’

A  pop-up vaccination clinic was set up at  Páirc Esler in Newry for the Ulster football semi-final between Monaghan and Armagh. Photograph: John McVitty/Inpho

A pop-up vaccination clinic was set up at Páirc Esler in Newry for the Ulster football semi-final between Monaghan and Armagh. Photograph: John McVitty/Inpho

 

In another gentle twist to the Covid-19 related postponement of Tyrone’s All-Ireland football semi-final against Kerry, the secretary of Ulster GAA Brian McAvoy has publicly urged all young people in the province to avail of the opportunity to receive the vaccine ahead of their club championship season.

It also follows, and in some ways conflicts, comments made earlier this week by Tyrone joint-manager Feargal Logan, who said vaccination “has been a conundrum” within their set-up, given some concerns in may somehow inhibit on player performance.

McAvoy is the first provincial secretary to publicly state his stance on the matter, saying that “it is an individual choice for each person, but in choosing whether or not to take the vaccine, they should do so based on information available from reliable sources.”

This weekend will also see a concerted effort in the North to get more people vaccinated under the ‘Big Jab Weekend’ initiative.

“Young people have sacrificed much during the pandemic, but now the vaccine offers a route map towards a way of life that only 18 months ago we took for granted,” said McAvoy.

“The return of spectators to sporting events has had huge benefits to society and long may this continue. However, we want these games and sporting events to continue and as the intercounty season draws to a conclusion, the club championships will take centre stage in the GAA calendar.

“In recent weeks we have witnessed the postponement of games at numerous levels in the Association as Covid-19 case numbers rise, and it is incumbent on all of us to take whatever measures we can to reduce the risk of further spread of the virus and to protect our families and communities.”

Tyrone’s All-Ireland semi-final against Kerry was moved again last weekend, to Saturday, August 28th, with the All-Ireland final now taking place two weeks later than scheduled, on September 11th; this was to give the county the time requested to allow for the recovery of some of its players from Covid-19.

According to a GAA statement on Sunday, the decision was made “following receipt of additional medical information from Tyrone GAA and subsequent deliberations with the relevant parties today [Sunday]”.

In an interview with the Examiner on Monday, Logan, who is Tyrone co-manager with Brian Dooher, said that while “a series of players in the panel” are vaccinated, “obviously, vaccination is a personal choice.”

He further explained: “In fairness, part of the consideration this year was because it was a compressed league and championship, we were anxious that if guys were vaccinated they might go under for two weeks. And that might inhibit their performance.

“Vaccination has been a conundrum. We didn’t make it mandatory across the board. There are some players vaccinated for a variety of reasons, be they on the front line, or work in health. It’s one of those things, even with the vaccination, people are still getting it and with first-hand experience of that, it lays you low.

However, McEvoy added: “The contagious ‘Delta’ variant has become the dominant form of coronavirus and more young people have become ill through this strain than had been the case with previous ones.

“Worryingly, the vast majority of people hospitalised in recent weeks have not been vaccinated and this is putting additional pressure on an already over-burdened health service workers. The evidence therefore suggests that you are less likely to become seriously ill if you have been vaccinated.

“I realise that it is an individual choice for each person but in choosing whether or not to take the vaccine, they should do so based on information available from reliable sources. For me the benefits are clear for all to see, both on and off the GAA fields.

“Vaccinations are available at a range of facilities in both jurisdictions, including in some local pharmacies, and this weekend will see a concerted effort in the north to get more people vaccinated under the ‘Big Jab Weekend’ initiative.”

The saga of the Covid-19 outbreak in Tyrone county has been running since it was revealed that players had to be withdrawn before the Ulster final on July 31st , with Tyrone insisting they needed a two-week postponement of the All-Ireland semi-final.

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