THE reopening of GAA clubs this week, even with a raft of regulations, can’t come soon enough.
Since May and the first phase of post-lockdown Ireland, players and coaches have been gunning to return. There are only so many episodes of All-Ireland Gold, WhatsApp drills, Zoom meeting, and 5km challenges any Gael can take.
The GAA is the largest sporting organisation in the country and was understandably slow to allow its members back when there was still a series of questions regarding Covid-19.
Yet teams have been stuck in a bizarre purgatory in recent weeks.
Many are meeting up informally, in smaller groups, or simply away from the spotlight, not only to get up to speed before the championship throw-in, from July, but also for social and mental health reasons.
Every wide-open space in the city and county has been colonised by hurlers and footballers, so much so that Redmond’s club, whose pitch is near Cork Airport, had to threaten trespassers with the gardaí.
“One of the groups on Tuesday had two bags of footballs and the sticks you put into the ground for drills. They came prepared; this was an organised session,” a Redmond’s club official told Eoghan Cormican of the Irish Examiner. “If the players from this particular club think they are going to go into our pitch and use it, and their own pitch is idle, they are very much mistaken. There is no way we are leaving them in there,” the official said.
University College Cork had similar issues with their pitches, in the Mardyke and at the Farm in Curraheen. You can’t condone teams breaking the GAA rules, and certainly not when using private areas, whatever about public amenities like the Regional Park in Ballincollig or the Lee Fields, but you can understand their desperation.
Whatever about a slow and steady approach to bringing juvenile panels back adults should have returned at the start of June.
Soccer squads have been permitted to train since June 15. Surely, hurlers and footballers could have been allowed to do the same?
There have been some mixed messages from the Association over the past two weeks.
That we were told Cúl Camps were still going ahead when social distancing hadn't been eased was bizarre and can only be based on generating revenue.
Cork clubs run their own and most have been cancelled, as there’s too heavy a burden on those running them, particularly when you consider they employ teenagers to assist with the coaching.
To be fair, finance is a major concern for the GAA and all sporting bodies from here, even with support from the government.
That will have a devastating impact on clubs everywhere looking to upgrades facilities or to support coaching initiatives. The fallout from Covid-19 will resonate for years.