‘I'd like to see GAA pitches open to allow players to train in small groups’

‘I'd like to see GAA pitches open to allow players to train in small groups’
Cork manager Paudie Murray on the sideline in last year's All-Ireland semi-final loss. When will he return to his familiar spot? Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

EIGHT weeks down the line, with camogie and GAA pitches still closed across the country, Cork manager Paudie Murray’s views on the lockdown and whether he sees a playing season for camogie this year have not changed.

He is keen to see players allowed to get back to some form of activity, for both mental and physical benefits.

“First and foremost, the most important thing is everyone’s well-being during this current time,” he said. “However, I think there are further problems down the track with kids, teenagers, and young adults suffering from mental health and anxiety.

“I’d get them out as quickly as possible. I don’t see anything wrong with groups of four meeting for social distance exercising, supervised by parents, which I am, or others.”

Government guidelines for phase one of the lifting of restrictions on May 18 permitted outdoor group exercise of up to four people where social distancing can be maintained. The next phase on June 8 states: “People can take part in outdoor sporting and fitness activities, involving team sports training in small groups [but not matches] where social distancing can be maintained and there is no contact.”

The Camogie Association has set June 8 as a date for any further update, but the GAA has banned all training until at least phase four, on July 20. That means all pitches are off-limits, even to individuals.

“All I’m saying is that, as per Government phase one, there is no question that people should be left into pitches now in small groups and let the decision about playing up to the experts. The Government have listened to the health advice,” said Murray. “They’ve lifted restrictions.

“The GAA and camogie associations need to do the same. The Government have put in place an advisory group and the GAA have created a dedicated Covid-19 advisory group with medical experts and representatives from GAA, camogie, LGFA, and GPA. It is these experts that will make the decisions and provide future guidance.

“During the week, a software system figured on the Claire Byrne show, from a Cork software development company, 8 West Consulting. It presented a temperature patch that at regular intervals takes the temperature of healthcare staff and alerts if any abnormalities are found.

“This is being adapted for those involved in sport, to similarly alert if a player/management shows signs of the virus. If that does happen, the person is isolated from the group to protect the group and the person gets the necessary medical attention at the earliest possible point,” he said.

Amy O'Connor is ready for a return to action when permitted. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Amy O'Connor is ready for a return to action when permitted. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

“Just one of several measures being looked at behind the scenes to mitigate concern of all those involved. They’re talking about clubs going first. I’ve no problem with that at all. I don’t mind who goes out first, once we get groups back out and onto the pitches. I’m not so sure, however, it’s possible to go club-first, considering the logistics of it.

“If both club GAA and club camogie are back at the same time, I would expect that camogie clubs will have difficulty getting facilities.

“What’s going to happen next year? Is there going to be no GAA or camogie again because the experts tell us it’s highly unlikely there will be a vaccine before then, or social distancing end anytime soon.

“In my opinion inter-county will go first because it can be managed safely, and clubs who have larger numbers can safely follow on with these learnings. There is going to be an awful lot of preparatory work and strict guidelines expected, between constant monitoring of players and management, disinfecting players, hurleys, sliotars, and all other equipment. Dressing rooms will need to be thoroughly cleaned, among many other measures. It’s going to be hard work,” he added. 

With regard to the structure of camogie championship fixtures, Murray doesn’t believe change is needed. “I don’t think the camogie championship has to be knockout. If we leave the group stages as is and play week after week, have no quarter-finals and have a one-week break before the semi-final and a two-week break before the final you’d have the championship finished in nine weeks,” he said.

Milford's Ashling Thompson returned to the Cork squad this spring. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
Milford's Ashling Thompson returned to the Cork squad this spring. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“There’s no arguing then about what team should play who, if the group games were scrapped. I think that would be the fairest.

“Once the experts allow, if the championship started on August 1, you’d have it run off by the end of September at the latest. Clubs could then start, but as I said I don’t mind who goes first. 

"At this stage what I want is to get the pitches open again so that male and female players can train in small groups and take it from there. Leave the experts make the decisions, rather than us trying to come up with A or B. We have two options which we will be guided on; we do nothing for the next year and a half or we sit down and see is there a workable solution.”

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