Kildare chairman calls on government to remember importance of sport
Mick Gorman was speaking after GAA announced clubs in three counties could reopen
A view of hand sanitiser provided at St. Conleth’s GAA Park during last week’s Kildare SFC match between Moorefield and Carbury. Photo: Morgan Treacy/Inpho
Kildare chair Mick Gorman has asked that the government not forget the importance of sport when enforcing the localised coronavirus lockdown affecting his county, Laois and Offaly and imposed last week in response to soaring infection rates.
He also drew attention to what he said was the “unfair” stretching of a two-week lockdown to cover three weekends.
“I think recognition is due for the part that sport plays in community life in difficult times, keeping spirits up and protecting mental health. Usually it’s the first thing shut down but the benefits and what it does for the community should always be kept in mind.
“Public health is always the most important consideration but the role of sport in people’s wellbeing shouldn’t be forgotten either. The GAA will always support what the community needs but that should be reflected in support given to us so that if the numbers improve, the lockdown should be lifted earlier.”
He was speaking after the GAA had allowed clubs in the three counties to reopen their grounds for restricted training sessions – limited to 15 and non-contact – in line with public restrictions announced last Friday.
Initially the association in conjunction with women’s football and camogie had declared a total cessation of activities pending review.
That took place on Monday after the three counties were consulted by Croke Park and a recommendation that the grounds be re-opened was considered and accepted in the evening by the GAA’s Covid Advisory Group.
“We were very happy with the outcome,” said Gorman. “The three counties wanted pitches open, wanted to deal with the government restrictions and not with anyone imposing additional limits.
“Because these restrictions imposed on the three counties have centred on meat factories and direct provision an awful lot of communities would feel very let down so just to be able to get back on the fields for the two weeks is very important - getting to run around and open the walkways is really positive.”
He went on to highlight an anomaly that is set to cost the counties three rounds of activities because of the interpretation of a fortnight.
“The Government announced that the restrictions imposed would last for two weeks but when it was signed into regulation it became 16 days so we’re about to lose three weekends if that’s not adjusted. That would be awfully unfair. We understand that a lot depends on how the numbers go but to leave it at 16 days would add a lot to the burden of getting fixtures played.
“As it stands, it will be the Monday morning before the lockdown is lifted and that will be very hard on us to meet our schedules. Then there will be a further problem with clubs coming back without having had any physical contact for a while and they won’t be keen to go straight back into games.”
Such an interpretation would create serious difficulties for the counties’ ability to meet the scheduling of an already crowded fixtures timetable.
According to Gorman, with the loss of a fortnight, Kildare could just about keep on track to meet its scheduled finals dates in September were some fixtures to be played midweek but losing three weekends would maker that all but impossible.
Government officials and ministers have, however, given no guarantee that the lockdown will be lifted after two weeks and the easing of restrictions will be dependent on the numbers of cases in the three counties.
A communiqué from the GAA to Kildare, Laois and Offaly paid tribute to the work of the counties during the pandemic.
“The Covid Advisory Group are satisfied that to date the incidence of reported positive Covid cases among those participating in Gaelic Games in Laois, Offaly and Kildare is miniscule, and no higher or lower than the general incidence among GAA clubs nationwide.
“This is testament to the work of our clubs and members in those Counties in adhering to the Safe Return guidelines and our membership should be very proud of what it has achieved in this context to date.
“It is the view of the group that Gaelic games members and clubs in those counties should continue to follow the Government guidelines as laid out.”
A list of guidelines was included.
Mick Gorman was grateful for the support from Croke Park but said that it was necessary for the morale of GAA members in the affected counties.
“We felt that a supportive message was required because the clubs need to hear that. They’re all volunteers and have worked exceptionally hard to put in place all the protocols to make a safe return to play a reality.
“It’s psychologically very hard on people to have the rug pulled from underneath them.”