Reality bites on reopening plans

Photo: Sky Sports

The new Government’s announcement yesterday evening that elements of Phase 4 of the Covid-19 reopening programme were being put on hold has come as a bit of a reality check.

Within the GAA world, the measure that’s of most concern is the decision not to proceed for now with lifting the maximum allowable number for mass gatherings from 200 to 500. The lower number will remain in place for a few weeks more, by which time club Championships in counties across the country are planned to be in full swing.

The announcement is a setback for the GAA and officials within Mayo GAA have readily admitted as much. In a piece by Mike Finnerty in the Mayo News (here) Mayo GAA PRO Paul Cunnane described the news as “a huge blow” but he added that “we have to respect the public health guidelines that are there.”

Match-going supporters are going to feel the change of plans fairly clearly. Players, backroom teams and officials all count towards the 200 number that would be allowed to attend any game and when you add all these up the total is already close to 100. That means that little more than 100 supporters will be able to get to see any live action at first hand, while the current limit stays in place.

In Mike’s piece it’s stated that increased streaming of matches may now be looked at, with the possibility that some Championship fixtures within the county might be broadcast on TG4 or RTÉ as well. Such a development could well be part of the new normal for us, at least for the next while.

How the return to play in 2020 – either at club or county level – is going to pan out is still very much an open question. The incidents where club players have tested positive shows the fragility of plans to play a load of matches in a very short timescale. Turkey and Sam might make for a good tagline but will we see this happen in practice? It’s difficult to be certain that we will.

The advisability or otherwise of a return to play in 2020 was captured well in a thoughtful piece in yesterday’s Irish Examiner by Michael Moynihan – that’s here.

It’s worth all of us stopping to pause and consider the question posed so starkly in that piece, i.e. is a medal and a few matches worth a single death in the community? I think we all know the answer to that one. Sometimes there really is no way to escape the stark reality of this strange world we now inhabit.

38 thoughts on “Reality bites on reopening plans

  1. I Think it would be better to postpone the club championship in mayo until after the tenth of august .what is the point of playing if the supporters cannot attend especially in the club sphere.i hope someone on the blog might have influence in the county board to postpone the matches.

  2. Good article WJ. A couple of players or officials getting sick (never mind God forbid a death) is too much of a risk. The Acting Chief Medical Officer said earlier ‘the country is in a position of high uncertainty at the moment”. The season should be abandoned.

  3. There is no guarantee that the number allowed to attend games after the 10th August will increase to 500. It will depend on how the virus is spreading in the mean time.
    The risk of spreading the virus in an outdoor situation is small. That is why outdoor sports are permitted at present. Of course there is some risk but the experts feel the benefits in terms of physical and mental well being in playing outdoor sports outweighs the risks.

  4. Only reality of the situation I see is a new government making a knee jerk reaction and trying to show some leadership.

    Whatever about pubs I think the 500 at club games should have remained in place.

  5. The games should have been allowed go ahead with 500 attendees. Its outdoor, wear a mask and enjoy the game.

  6. Goagain when do you think GAA activity should resume? When there’s a vaccine? From what I read the most optimistic projections are one being rolled out early-mid 2021, pessimistic forecasts doubt the effectiveness of a vaccine full stop.

    Expecting GAA players to miss out, while soccer/rugby etc returns, while they can go shopping to their hearts content, while they happily go for food and drinks, while they can head to a plethora of hotels across the country, while shortly schools and pubs will be back in full swing and offices will be opening up again is just not realistic

    In May the government released a roadmap to reopen the country. This was in the full understanding we’ll be living with this virus a long time. Why are we reopening in the first place? Because the alternative is staying locked down until a vaccine/treatment which is just not viable. They – along with the medical professionals – deemed sporting activity was ok to resume a few weeks back and that’s good enough for me and the vast majority of players/coaches I speak to. It was a long 3 months or whatever it was without sporting activity but the vast majority acknowledged this was for the greater good, while this virus was rampant

    The acting CMO acknowledged cases were low yesterday and they absolutely are. Things have changed hugely. Add in the fact outdoor transmission is far lower than indoor, add in the mental health benefits, the propensity of sport to get teenagers off the streets and out of trouble and so on. The numbers just do not support nuclear decisions like canceling sport again. If we live our lives with what ifs we won’t ever leave the house, get into a car again etc

    I’ve no doubt that if cases get to a worrying level again that the government may well roll back on phase 3 and that the GAA will fully go along with that (and I’d fully agree with that personally). However until that happens – let the games commence!

    And I’m in agreement with the posters above, its a shame about crowd numbers. I think we’ll get to a stage where blanket orders like ‘no crowds of over 50 indoors’ ‘all pubs closed’ and the same restrictions for everywhere in the country no matter how badly affected (which were fully understandable in the early stages of the virus) will have to instead shift to reviewing individual instances – so for example bigger churches and rural pubs can apply for their own exemptions and so on.

    But for now, it looks like it’ll be streaming online – which of course will never be the same. But these are the times we live in but for now everyone stay safe, wash those hands and if you are lucky enough to get to a match, or are playing in one – enjoy the return!

  7. This is just the beginning of it to be honest. A re-emergence of the virus alongside the winter flu is extremely likely. It is likely a decision will be taken at that stage to write off the 2020 Championship as well as both the 2020 and 2021 National League seasons.

    After that any progress will depend on a vaccine and immunity levels. If, as some studies suggest, immunity after contracting the virus only lasts a few months, we will be facing far bigger issues than whether football matches are played.

  8. If there is a risk of increased spread of the virus as the numbers suggest then the government is right to delay reopening. While 500 people actually at a game may not pose a high risk as it is out doors and social distancing can be maintained, the risk is with 500 people travelling, moving around, using toilets, cafes, shops etc. Multiply that by the number of games planned and that’s 1000s of people on the move to various parts of the county (in every county), people travelling from other counties to watch their home club, that’s prime conditions for spreading the virus which will result in the reintroduction of restrictions. Its the right call by the government, being able to watch a game of football or go to a pub isn’t worth the risk to peoples health.

  9. Agree Mayomad. If the government made the wearing of masks mandatory in all shops etc and at outdoor gatherings we would be ok to extend to 500. But because they haven’t we’ll see a surge which will cause another partial lockdown and Club activities will be canned.

  10. Can see a problem with clubs championship games that are to be played at neutral venues. Are stewards from the neutral venue club supposed to police the rules and only permit people with tickets to enter, a lot of hassle that the stewards might say this is not our problem as there own club team not even competing

  11. Think I partly agree with Moynihan Was looking forward to attending games but that won’t happen while only about 100 supporters allowed in. Gaelic games are there to be enjoyed by everyone, players supporters etc but that is not going to happen this year

  12. More clubs suspending activities today and hints in media today that the number of cases exceeding 100 again will bring us back to Phase 2

    Id be pleasantly surprised to see GAA still being played by the bank holiday to be honest

    I think the no budging on the crowd numbers has dampened many people’s appetite anyway

    Club games without crowds? Meh

  13. Geting more unlikely that we’ll see a county championship this year. May as well postpone it until 2021 at this stage. Youd really miss it. Leaving work on a friday evening in summer and a Mayo game to look forward to at the weekend. Youd miss the buzz.

  14. We just have to train and play away…..with many clubs seeing huge numbers at training every one of those players is entitled to a ticket…

    Fact is I think it’s highly likely the club championships will not be finished. The country is at a very dangerous juncture…

  15. Adapting to the new normal. We take two steps forward and one step back and I think it will be like that for a while. We can’t shut the door on everything. We have keep to trying to live life as near normal as possible. Living with the virus in our community. To not keep trying would be devasting on so many levels. We should try to hold games for the players.. we should try go to cinema for the actors.. listen to music for the musicians etc, etc.,. in a thoughtful, respectful and in a safe way as possible. We have to be innovative.. get the camera to these games.. and if they have to be played behind closed doors for now so be it. You can’t say sorry lads and lassies but we don’t know where things are going so forget about the training you already have done and don’t do any more cause we’re closing up shop for the next year or until we get a vaccine

  16. The players are the ones putting in the effort. If supporters cant go in order to keep people healthy then we must suck it up and let’s hope our own clubs do well

  17. A very mixed bag of views on here which is to be expected..As mentioned earlier the buzz of having a Mayo match is really being felt.Remember those Monday morning draws to find out who we’d play the following weekend..I even miss those!! And while the the talk is of a second spike/wave to come its not here yet so we have to continue to do our best and hope for the best..This is our 18th weekend indoors.We need to have something to look forward to or we will be doo lally by December.

  18. There will be plenty of games on now in clubs during the week from underage to ladies footballers. Check with your club and stroll down these long evenings. Its good for the body and mind. The football could be more entertaining than the county football. Remember to be Covid compliant at all your clubs lotto etc as most clubs are in a very poor financial situation. Enjoy the football while we can.

  19. Good post Southmayo exile. Overall there’s certainly more to club than senior championship. Strolled down to the local pitch a few days to watch challenge games from various age groups (watched in over the wall ) but as you say it’s great for body and mind, who knows what’s around the corner, it literally is a day to day situation

    Re ticket situation for championship I see several counties are going the behind closed doors route, and I have to agree with them

  20. It’s a game of wait and see what happens, 2 things that will affect everything are,
    1, The new Chief Medical Officer in place.
    2, The new Taoiseach.
    It’s all a matter of opinions, there is way too much fear being broadcast especially on RTE, trying to scare us completely.
    I am back playing competitive indoor Soccer for the past 2 weeks, no problems yet.
    It seems its one rule for one and another rule for another part of Society.
    This Country is taking a step backwards, where face masks are mandatory in all shops from next Monday, how come I can play indoor football with no face covering ?

  21. Can I ask this question, are the following open for business in Mayo.

    1, The Greenway Cycle
    2, Croagh Patrick for the midweek climber

    It will soon be holiday time here in Dublin.

  22. I think if they make wearing masks mandatory at Gaa matches then they could up the number of patrons to 500 I was in a big shop today in Ballina there’s was easily over a hundred people inside and not all of them wearing mask either. Ok if the number of cases goes up to 100 a day again then fair enough scrap the season but once wearing masks are compulsory in shops next week that should help stop the virus a bit or slow it down. I agree with Regina we will all be gone doo lally by Christmas if we can’t get out to watch a game or two

  23. Great to have club football back. Nothing beats club
    Few very high scoring games, belmullet and Charlestown looks like a cracker, anyone at it?

    J doc back in action too

  24. It’s true Regina that everyone seems to have different feelings on it all. My enthusiasm from a couple of weeks ago has all but gone now. My view is that the time to call a halt to all plans for the season are drawing near. There seems to be a lot of worrying trends and unfortunately there will always be a reservoir of infection abroad that will keep introducing it into Ireland. Coronavirus is notorious for genetic mutations so that will always pose challenges for vaccine manufacturers.

  25. Great that Doherty is back. Jason has several years left in the tank for sure!

    In my opinion club games should proceed regardless of numbers of attendees allowed. If it’s deemed ok for players to play then let them play. Absolutely daft not to. Same applies for intercounty.

    Obviously we all want a situation where we can have maximum crowds but in the meantime dont stop playing.

    And if people had been using common sense months ago and not waiting to be told to wear a mask while in a public indoor space then the world would have been in a far healthier position. Not wearing a mask now in a shop is just ignorant in every meaning of the word. A short term inconvenience.

  26. Thanks WJ – hopefully they disruptions don’t become the norm but I fear the worst. Both clubs appear to have acted in good faith so well done all.

  27. Great come back from Belmullet tonight
    They were down 4 goals at half time v Charlestown.

  28. Is this really worth it? Look i know it was absolutely fantastic having competitive football back in mayo and a great distractionn for everyone.

    I am asking supporters of individual clubs that traveled through mayo this weekend, did we all stick to guidelines? I know the game I was at guidelines went out the window as people forgot and were just happy to see there club back in action and a lot more than 200 at the game. Some wore masks whilst others had no issue chatting pub talk.

    Some of the guidance is crazy, not from a health point of view (WELL SOME OF IT), but a more “how can we monitor this”?. The stewards have a thankless job and some peoples attitudes to the whole situation makes it even more difficult. The game I was at there was a players huddle, drinking out of the same bottles and hell for leather against the opposition? Am I a snowflake?

    I personally feel we are doing so well in mayo at the moment but serious challenges lies ahead with movement! What happens? What is the plan?

  29. Read all the comments, trying to get a fix on the general attitude and sentiment to live club game’s going ahead again… Great to see that live game’s have gone ahead.. While there is some disappointing information coming from Louisburg regards to a positive Covid test in the area.. the Club is to be commented on taking decisive and correct action in regards to pulling the game with Balla… This is undoubtedly the spirit the we collectively in Mayo and Ireland need to act in for the greater good of all in Society… So best wishes to whoever it is in the Louisburg area who unfortunately contracted the Virus, take care.. and thanks to those in the Louisburg GAA Club for making the hard decision in the interests of the greater good as well!

  30. I see The Neale beat Castlebar. Was anyone at that game? Pretty incredible result given only just up to senior.

  31. Went to Breaffy v Garrymore.

    Breaffy started with Rob in goals, Séamus at 6. Mattie Ruane & Michael Hall Midield. Conor at 12. Aidan at 14

    Garrymore had Caolan Crowe at 6. Shane Nally at 7.

    Breaffy stormed into a 7-1 lead at first water break. Tommy O Reilly doing most of the damage with 4 of them. Aido took one strong advanced mark. Garrymore had 5 wides in this period

    Next fifteen minutes Garrymore took over with Caolan Crowe driving on from 6. Darren Quinn causing problems at 11 and Cathal Slattery and Mark Tierney dangerous inside. 8-8 HT

    Garrymore moved 10-8 at second water break. Just after Garrymore missed a goal chance and from the clearance Mattie Ruane slalomed 40 yards through the Garrymore defence to score a brilliant goal

    Breaffy kicked two more points one beauty from Conor to go three up but Garrymore got three late points two coming from substitutes to equalise

    Both teams had chances to win it but draw probably a fair result. Aidan moved out to Midfield for last 15 and used his physicality well.

    Good game, with first half very good standard

  32. I heard Tommy Conroy racked up a big score for the Neale against Castlebar.

    Redcol – was Enda Hession playing for Garrymore? I think he’s a real prospect.

    I was at Knockmore vs Aghamore on Friday. Fergal Boland excellent for Aghamore. He got 5 from play in the 1st half and another 2 or 3 after the break. Brendan Harrison scored a nice outside of the boot point just on half time but picked up a knock in the process and didn’t reappear for the 2nd half.

    Peter Naughton and Aidan Orme were clinical for Knockmore up front, while Kevin Mc was pulling the strings in midfield.

  33. Castlebar played Clanna Gael in a challenge on friday night and came to Cong with a second string team. Just think it’s a bit disrespectful to the home team who were looking forward to their first shot at senior club football.

  34. Mitchells did not field any county players and all senior fringe/B team. Great game to watch. Defensively the neale were poor, half back line showed little aggression and no. 6 was non existent. Tommy Conroy was a joy to watch and will be interesting to see how he fairs against seasoned senior defenders. Goalkeeper for the neale was excellent throughout. 14 for mitchells was a threat and so too was no. 8.

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