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GAA players set to torpedo hopes of a 2020 return to action

 

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Bleak future: GAA club football might not return until next year

Bleak future: GAA club football might not return until next year

�INPHO/Evan Logan

Michael Briody

Michael Briody

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Bleak future: GAA club football might not return until next year

The notion of any club activity in 2020 is set to be blown apart by the expected result of a survey carried out by the Club Player's Association (CPA) later today.

 

The CPA has balloted its' members asking a series of pertinent questions about their appetite to play Gaelic Games this year, in light of the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, and under the assumption that there is no available vaccine.

Chairman of the CPA, Michael Briody shared his fears by stating: "My own personal view is that there will be no games this year at all. Club or county.

"We wouldn't be pushing or gunning for this, from a CPA point of view. But when we take the views of the players into consideration, that's where it is going to come from."

There had been suggestion from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar that club action could make a return on July 20, but early indications from the survey hold that club players are reluctant to return to action.

The results will be announced in full today, but by their very nature if there is anything less than full buy-in from club players, then the idea of a club season will have to be shelved for the year.

Basically on the point that 'has anybody thought about us? Are we going to be guinea pigs?

Briody spelled out the reality as it pertains to most clubs, stating: "If you go to our club, if only half of the players turn up, then we don't have a squad and we can't field.

"And we are talking about the small, rural junior clubs. It wouldn't be a problem with the Kilmacud Crokes and Ballyboden of course."

In attempting to make a return to action, various scenarios have been teased out in how to manage the numbers in dressing rooms, how turnstiles will be operated and crowds policed by bearing social distancing in mind. The problem appears when players take to the field.

Briody revealed that the CPA were inundated with over 100 emails from members expressing grave concerns.

"Basically on the point that 'has anybody thought about us? Are we going to be guinea pigs?'" he said.

"There are others that live with their parents who are in the vulnerable category, others that are saying their wife or girlfriend work in health care, how can they be safe to go out and play with players, that they wouldn't feel right doing it.

"In fairness, when I thought about this I was thinking in terms of the crowds, and now people are starting to think of it as a contact sport and people at risk here of spreading by community transmission are the players.

"I think there is a realisation now. I know it was said we could start back with club. It was meant in good faith with the point of view that it was smaller gatherings but I don't think we are going to see that in 2020."

If club players are apprehensive about returning to play, then that will be replicated across the intercounty scene. The same concerns apply."

The CPA survey also asks if people would be comfortable to go along and spectate at county games, and this field is expected to receive a very lukewarm response.

It all leads any form of Gaelic Games in 2020, even the mooted behind-closed doors intercounty Championship plans, in grave doubt.

"The faltering steps to restore professional sport, such as the return of the Bundesliga in Germany, will be watched with keen interest, all in the context that GAA players live among their own community and come into contact with all sections of society," he said.

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Michael Briody

Michael Briody

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Michael Briody

 

Briody believes the GAA response to date has been correct, but also sees the potential to re-think the run of games and competitions and design a fixtures calendar that satisfies all.

"I think the GAA are going to make this decision in fairness to them. I don't think there is any need for anyone to be preaching at them. They will do it right but in the next four weeks they have got to decide on a season," he said.

"I am assuming this committee set up now, the Covid-19 advisory committee, which unfortunately has no club representative but, in any case, it is well represented with medical practitioners on it which is more important.

"They are going to have to talk and agree what the games look like if they come back in September or October.

"If we are planning on bringing back play on a certain date and Tony Holohan (Chief Medical Officer for the Department of Health) or the government medical advisers say, 'no, that won't happen', well then the GAA have got to say there will be no games for the foreseeable future.

"We have got to get our heads down and work on a road map about getting our games back for 2021, do something brilliant, start with a blank canvas and sort the fixtures once and for all, now that we have the time. That might be a bit of a pipedream, though."

Belfast Telegraph