By Niall Gartland
GAELIC Life columnists Gerard O’Kane and Kevin Cassidy have said that the public’s health regarding the coronavirus outbreak supersedes any need to continue the GAA calendar.
Writing in today’s edition, both said that a safety-first approach must be adopted.
“If a match is to be cancelled at the weekend or a competition to be scrapped it would be disappointing for those looking forward to it,” said O’Kane.
“In reality the postponement or even cancellation of a GAA event is a minute burden compared to what the country might face on a wider health and economic scale.”
Cassidy also believes that while supporters may be annoyed, common sense must apply.
“First and foremost this has to be about people’s health and in some cases lives, so it’s important that we put things into context when discussing the possibility of axing sporting events.”
Meanwhile, Ulster GAA says that matches at provincial level will go ahead this weekend unless the government changes its present policy on the undertaking of sporting fixtures during the ‘containment’ phase of the coronavirus.
The provincial body released a statement yesterday (Wednesday) confirming that all Ulster League matches are set to go ahead as scheduled this Saturday and Sunday barring a change in circumstances.
Eight inter-county matches across minor and u-16 level are nominally placed to go ahead on Saturday while there are six club league fixtures pencilled in for the following day.
Sporting events have already been hit by the outbreak with last Saturday’s Six Nations rugby match between Ireland and France postponed until further notice, while the Republic of Ireland and the North’s Euro2020 playoff games are likely to be played behind closed doors.
At the time of going to press, this weekend’s National League fixtures are set to go ahead.
In a statement disseminated yesterday, the Ulster GAA confirmed that there has been no change of plans about this weekend’s matches, but that is likely to change if there is any chance in government policy.
“The GAA is taking the advice of the health authorities in relation to the playing of games and other GAA activities.
“Presently Ireland, North and South, is in the ‘containment’ phase of the Covid 19 Virus and the current advice from government is that sporting fixtures should continue as normal, unless there is deemed to be a significant risk to public safety. This position is subject to ongoing review.
“Our advice to our members is to heed government guidance and to take all reasonable precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.”
Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) presently advises that you shouldn’t attend a mass gathering event if you are feeling unwell, and that high risk groups – those aged 65 and older, and those with long-term medical problems – should also consider where attending such events is in their best interest.
It also remains to be seen whether the MacRory Cup final (St Patrick’s Maghera v St Colman’s Newry) and MacLarnon Cup decider (St Pius X Magherafelt v Our Lady and St Patrick’s Knock) will go ahead next Tuesday with St Patrick’s Day parades already being cancelled across the country.
Antrim GAA also released a statement yesterday saying that they wouldn’t be found wanting in their response to the crisis.
“The evolving nature of the situation means that public health experts are monitoring the situation on a daily basis.
“With the advent of spring, this is a busy and exciting period for Gaelic games. We hope that shall not be impacted by current concerns about public health implications.
“However, Antrim GAA remains ready to respond to whatever public health assessment emerges in the days ahead.”
Meanwhile, the Creggan u-21 tournament is still going ahead, though they are monitoring the situation regarding the virus.
A statement from the Creggan club said: “We will be monitoring the situation and keeping a close eye on GAA advice and directives on Covid-19 but as of yet, fixtures will run as normal and planned this weekend.”