GAA clubs across County Down and Ireland plan to open again after the season had been postponed by GAA officials at Croke Park writes Ben King.
GAA president John Horan announced: “The GAA season won’t go ahead until a vaccine is found to protect the safety of players and that games won’t be back up and running until social distancing is acceptable. Gaelic football is a contact sport and activities couldn’t be resumed without the removal of this obstacle.”
The launch of Phase two of COVID restrictions has allowed clubs across Ireland and GAA clubs in County Down who have been given the green light to plan for the reopening of pitches and train in small groups by the end of June, abiding by social distancing, which restricts game play but allows teams to make the most of meeting up fellow teammates on freshly cut grass.
The planning stage is crucial if clubs are ready to open their pitches. Safety has been at the forefront of one County Down club, the Russell Gaelic Union (RGU), Downpatrick. They are currently preparing for the new demands of the season ahead.
Collie Quinn, Downpatrick RGU PRO, explained: “Our club are working towards the ten key steps for recovery. These steps will help overcome the challenges that we are currently faced in the sporting sphere.
A meeting of senior board officers is taking place on last week’s announcement by the GAA.
“We are drawing up a road map on how to implement training and get people involved in the GAA club. RGU has been holding Question and Answer sessions in their club committee, bringing them up to County level on the coronavirus situation.
“The RGU is taking a prudent approach by ensuring they acquire the right advice to ensure they meet all dates from the guidance provided by Down GAA so that they can plan ahead for the re-opening at the end of June/ early July.
“The gaelic pitch is not currently open to its member’s but to facilitate the re-opening of their grounds they need to plan ahead to ensure their grounds are ready. Information needs to be made known to the members of their road map and the Club will answer questions posed by parents to ensure everyone is made aware of when they can return safely.
“One aspect of the plans at the moment is to appoint a COVID- 19 officer for the club to oversee the running of each group of teams which extends from primary school children to senior, male and female players.”
Collie Quinn added: “They also are going to erect signage with health guidelines to remind people to wash their hands and socially distance, which is important for users of the 1km walkway around the Gaelic pitches which have re-opened for members to exercise.
“This epidemic has presented a major challenge for GAA clubs and that GAA fills a void in the lives of all its members and for many older members, and it is the first point of conversation.
“The GAA community is tight-knit and does much to bring the urban community and rural parishes across Down alive, but re-opening must be done in the safest way, which this club and and other clubs are working on.”