By Niall McCoy
THE GAA remain optimistic that some games can take place in 2020 – but there is a growing feeling that a return to county action will be easier to police than club competitions.
The tone is more positive compared to earlier in the month when any action looked unlikely after GAA President John Horan told The Sunday Game that games would be unlikely while social distancing remained in place.
That seemed to all but rule out matches this year with social distancing set to remain in place indefinitely, but there have certainly been brighter signals since.
As the coronavirus situation developed, it appeared likely that any return would see club action precede inter-county action, but the practicalities involved have swayed that argument somewhat.
There is simple logic to that reasoning. Testing players remains a possibility at inter-county level, but doing so for club players would essentially be impossible given the numbers involved. Inter-county testing would also depend on it becoming more easily accessible ahead of a potential return.
Any possible rate of infection, in terms of actual numbers, will also likely be much, much lower if it’s the smaller sample size of county squads.
The Association, of course, are well aware that there would likely be a PR backlash to deal with if they were seen to be favouring county over club, so they would need to make the medical reasoning clear and concise for its members.
Throughout this crisis they have relied heavily on medical professionals and that continues to be the case.
The GAA’s Covid-19 Advisory Group, which includes Ulster’s Dick Clerkin, Stephen McGeehan and Dr Kevin Moran, are believed to have sought the opinion of Professor Mary Horgan, who was recently involved in the World Rugby return to rugby guidelines publication.
The GAA have also been pleased with updates from the HSE, with the rate of coronavirus infections falling in the south.
As always though, the GAA are adopting a safety first approach and the situation could change dramatically over the coming weeks and months. Caution remains the key word, but hopes have been raised.