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McBurney/Declan Bogue

Pictured Declan Bogue

Date: Thursday 12th April 2012

Location: BT Offices

Credit: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Copyright: Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Liam McBurney - RAZORPIX


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The GAA will continue to be a huge driver in society in midst of the coronavirus crisis

Declan Bogue



Stop there: A view of the closed St Vincents’ GAA Club

Stop there: A view of the closed St Vincents’ GAA Club

�INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Stop there: A view of the closed St Vincents’ GAA Club

So, what happens now?

And the answer is, as Paul Brady would say, nobody really knows.

We all woke up yesterday morning to the strangest feeling. For the first time ever, there was no sport over the course of a weekend. In the event of a global pandemic, you'd think that wouldn't be such a big deal, but in a society as sociable as this it becomes a phenomenon beyond mere supply of avenues of entertainment.

Yesterday morning, there were no water cooler moments. For a great percentage of us, there wasn't even a water cooler, banished to a spare bedroom or the kitchen table with a laptop to work from home.

Without sport, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of us will grow a little more antsy, adding to the tension abounding out there anyway.

While there is no telling what will happen, there are examples that GAA at local and national level will become a huge driver in society in the coronavirus crisis.

Since February 23, GAA chiefs have been in daily contact with the HSE, tracking the progress, development and spread of Covid-19.

It was something they were on top of and they were able to make the decision last Thursday to shut down all club activity.

They leaned on the advice of their own Medical, Scientific and Welfare Committee, headed up by former Monaghan footballer Dick Clerkin, which met last Monday night.

"Our concerns are more player-specific than the safety of public gatherings but we are the only committee with a medical remit, and our members include some well-known and respected doctors, who may well have something to contribute in relation to this," said Clerkin ahead of that meeting.

"Ultimately, though, the GAA will do what's best for public health, and if the worst thing that comes out of it is that a few football games, hurling games and rugby games are cancelled, if that's as bad as it gets, we'd take that."

It might not be appreciated or recognised officially, but the GAA's choices have done more to influence the approach of community groups than government.

While the Stormont Executive instructed the population of Northern Ireland to carry on as normal and for schools to remain open, several have now shut indefinitely.

Yesterday, following the alarming and frankly distasteful scenes of people congregating tightly in pubs in Dublin's Temple Bar, the GAA made contact with all their units worldwide to instruct all units with licensed premises to close immediately.

Because of the 32-county reach of the Association, they appear entirely unlikely to take guidance from the Conservative government of the UK and even less to heed anything coming from Stormont, with the approach already fractured and disputed.

Last week, the GAA produced a video interview with president John Horan and published it on their own website, GAA.ie. In normal circumstances, there might be something iffy about this, a sporting organisation not opening themselves for widespread scrutiny from a number of media outlets.

But these are unprecedented times and, due to hygiene reasons, the very notion of a press conference is gone.

For Horan's part, his message was impressive. He said: "We in the GAA are quite aware of our penetration throughout Irish society, and that penetration carries a responsibility for us as an organisation.

"It is incumbent upon us to make decisions that benefit and support the actual operation of our country because this is a national emergency, and that's why we made it very clear our decision to shut everything down.

"There is no ambiguity across games and training until March 29. That was the right thing to do for us as an organisation and I would encourage all of our membership to adhere to all the guidelines given to them by ourselves and the health authorities, to comply with them. With that, it will help us come through this in time."

What happens in the meantime is anyone's guess. Already, columnists have had a go at predicting truncated forms of the Championship, what might happen to the proposed Tier Two Championship, and how the leagues will be scrapped and various permutations for club action introduced. But nobody knows.

All you can be entirely sure of is that the very date of March 29 is nothing more than a 'soft launch', designed to get us used to a new reality. There won't be any sport played in the first weekend of April and probably not for months after.

What this means for sport in general and the GAA is too much to fathom. Apart from the social capital lost, there will be much to sort out from a commercial perspective, from the very biggest of the sponsorship of competitions with Allianz, Eir, AIB and Supervalu, through to the likes of club fundraisers and even the humble club lotto. Everything is set to become a challenge.

For the next while, the terraces will remain empty, the pitches unused, balls will fall flat and we will all enter a strange inertia.

And when it passes, as it shall, we will all be grateful for what it gives us. We just have to ride it out for now.

Belfast Telegraph