THE inter-county GAA season throws-in this weekend, with the Cork minor hurlers and senior footballers, on Saturday, and the U20 hurlers, on Monday, first out from Leeside.
The shadow of Covid continues to darken, however, with the Government currently discussing a move to Level 5 restrictions, and the likely postponement of all GAA in that scenario.
Already this week, elite basketball and hockey and underage League of Ireland were put on hold, but, for now, the GAA head into the unknown.
The GPA National Executive Committee met this afternoon to discuss the results of an online poll of players carried out in the last three days. They unanimously agreed that the 2020 inter-county season should proceed subject to additional safeguards and supports for the welfare of its members.
Stronger testing protocols
Stricter compliance and oversight of Covid-19 protocols in all counties
The use of the safest venue for games (location and facilities)
The NEC has also called for the decision of any player to withdraw from their inter-county panel because of their personal circumstances to be respected.
There was a 76% response rate from members in the 48 hours with 1,695 players responding.
The key findings are:
52% of inter-county hurlers and footballers want to proceed with the season
24% want to play only if the implementation of the Covid-19 protocols is improved
24% of respondents do not want to proceed with the 2020 season
With 76% of players wanting to play, of which 24% want a more robust implementation of protocols, the NEC have decided to proceed on the basis these protocols are improved.
The GPA’s NEC have also been mandated by players (86%) to make further decisions regarding the continuation of the season.
The GPA will continue to work with the GAA Covid-19 Advisory Committee, follow government guidelines and monitor developments as this fluid situation evolves.
GPA CEO Paul Flynn said; “We are deeply concerned about our member's welfare given the ongoing developments nationwide.
“The clear message from our members is we need to strengthen the protocols to protect the welfare of the players, their families and their communities.
“We also need to respect the decision of players who opt out of the 2020 season.”
NEC chairman Tom Parsons said: “The NEC has taken our members views on board when making our decision today. This is not a full stop on the matter however.
"The NEC will continue to monitor developments with a close eye on compliance with Covid-19 protocols. We will not hesitate to take further action as we have been mandated to do if required.”
The following support services are also in place for any squad or individual through the GPA should they need it:
Medical advice/counsel for squads/players who may not have access to a team doctor to be facilitated through GPA Player Safety and Welfare Committee
A direct line to ask any questions regarding the GAA protocols and guidelines or concerns about upcoming fixtures
Direction for players on the co-ordination of rapid testing for players if required
Follow up cardiac screening for Covid-positive players before they return to training
Wellbeing supports for any player who contracts the virus and potentially feels isolated and vulnerable
GPA National Executive Committee: Tom Parsons, Chairman, Matt O’Hanlon, Secretary, Donal Óg Cusack, President; Seamus Hickey, Brian Mulvihill, Philip Greene, Noel Connors, Stephen McDonnell, Ronan Sheehan, Keith Rossiter, Eoin Price, Collie Moran, Neil McManus, Ciarán Kilkenny, Mickey Quinn, Podge Collins, Michael Murphy, Niall Morgan, Niall O’Meara, Paraic Mannion; John Glennon, independent, Sean Murphy, independent, Briain McCraith, independent.