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GAA volunteers will relish challenges the association faces due to coronavirus pandemic, says Tyrone chairman

 

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Prime goal: Michael Kerr insists people’s health must always remain a priority for the GAA

Prime goal: Michael Kerr insists people’s health must always remain a priority for the GAA

Prime goal: Michael Kerr insists people’s health must always remain a priority for the GAA

It is against a grim backcloth of foreboding that Tyrone county board chairman Michael Kerr has taken up the cudgels to spearhead the launch of a spirited recovery from the ravages of the coronavirus.

 

With the GAA at the highest level preparing to steel itself for a £50m loss, county boards stricken by uncertainty and many clubs facing into a financial abyss, the island's biggest sporting organisation has rarely if ever been in a more perilous backs-to-the-wall situation.

But Carrickmore club dynamo Kerr has not only rolled up his own sleeves to spark a renaissance but is encouraging players, officials and supporters up and down the island to play their part in stabilising the Association.

Never one to shirk a challenge, Kerr is convinced that 'the volunteer ethic' can surface as never before in releasing the GAA from the tentacles of depression with which it is engulfed.

"Money is not the most important thing at the minute," insisted Kerr. "Everybody's life is far more important than all the money or all the facilities that the GAA possesses.

"Our focus as I see it is to try and protect the whole community because there are no borders when it comes to this virus.

"Here in Carrickmore we had a community initiative at which our local GP, Dr Herron, the Church of Ireland minister the Reverend Barr and myself spoke and the sense of togetherness was inspirational. We have had three very successful podcasts which have helped to keep everyone in touch."

With no gate receipts, coronavirus support ventures taking precedence over weekly fundraising draws and a curb on social activities, club income throughout the island has all but ground to a halt. This will mean a heavier burden on members further down the line as efforts are made to bolster coffers.

But Kerr remains undeterred by the challenge that will confront the GAA fraternity.

"Thirty or 35 years ago, the GAA had very little money. So what did we do? We went out and we raised funds ourselves and we will do that again," stated Kerr. "Let's just say there may be finite resources but the GAA is infinitely resourceful. The challenge will undoubtedly be thrown up to us but I am looking forward to that.

"It is always worth remembering that volunteers don't get paid not because they are worthless but because they are priceless.

"Maybe the next six or eight months is going to be a testing time for us but I think after that it will be a case of rebuilding to where we were before this crisis.

"I think that the community as a whole here in Tyrone and indeed in other counties realises that the GAA has been at the centre of everything that is good about battling against the effects of the coronavirus in terms of looking after people.

"We would hope that in the future when GAA personnel come knocking on people's doors that they might remember this and support us but the important thing for now is that people stay safe and retain their health."

Like everyone else, even those on the fringes of the GAA, Kerr is disappointed that at best there may only be a spartan diet of on-field action between now and the end of the year.

Yet he remains adamant that this will be a very small price to pay if the ongoing suffering and heartbreak which the coronavirus is transporting to every corner of the island can be even more effectively contained or, even better, negated.

"When we come out of lockdown as we know it now, we will fully realise then what the ramifications are for us. But as an organisation the GAA is prepared to sacrifice everything that it holds dear for the betterment of the community," he said.

"We even have had properties made available to us - flats, apartments and houses - in which NHS workers could be accommodated if and when necessary to save them maybe having to go home after coming off their shifts.

"This shows you the lengths ordinary decent people are prepared to go to in order to do their bit to help get us all out of this crisis and this is certainly appreciated. Gestures like this can help to greatly ease pressure.

"In this year in particular, the welfare of the bigger community is paramount and we must be prepared to take a back seat in terms of our games and other activities."

Belfast Telegraph