Highlights on Off The Ball

02:00 PM-06:00 PM

Highlights on Off The Ball

GAA chief cannot rule out matches being forfeited | Level 3 reaction

GAA Director of Communications Alan Milton and Professor Anthony Staines joined Off The Ball on M...

GAA chief cannot rule out matc...

GAA chief cannot rule out matches being forfeited | Level 3 reaction

GAA Director of Communications Alan Milton and Professor Anthony Staines joined Off The Ball on Monday where they spoke about the GAA's reaction to clubs breaking coronavirus recommendations.

Milton maintains that the GAA was unable to sit by as the footage from the weekend emerged of people flouting COVID-19 advice, and has not ruled out matches needing to be forfeited.

"Some of the images we saw over the weekend were completely unacceptable," says Milton.

"We didn't feel comfortable standing over some of the incidents that were taking place, albeit some of them were taking place outside of our premises and our grounds.

"There was a broken line from our organisation to those incidents and celebrations, and it is hard to fathom why people weren't able to socially distance better."

Matches may suffer as a result, and forfeits cannot be ruled out.

"There is not a whole lot of wiggle room in the schedule and central council have discussed this - if it comes to pass, that will be a very stark decision to be made.

"I can count on one hand - or maybe a little more - how many outbreaks there were with club teams. Certain clubs pulled games because of mood music in the locality but there is no evidence that there have been mass breakouts of positive cases."

Different animal

Milton acknowledged the county championship will also have celebrations but they are different in his view.

"I don't think it's the same animal; the passions aroused, although if Waterford were to win a hurling title or Mayo were to win.

"The way we're headed at the moment there's every chance our games will be played behind closed doors.

"Then we'll have to have a different conversation with our wider membership.

"I think there's something primal, and I mean that in a complimentary way about the club winning that is different to the county winning."

Milton didn't single out clubs for their actions or reactions, but the GAA felt it was left with no choice.

"If you haven't won a county title in 56 years or like Kiladangan you've never won a county title," reasoned Milton.

"It probably just disarms you and you just break out from the straightjacket that we have all been wearing societally.

"Unfortunately that doesn't wash and I don't know how you can explain it away. The GAA as an organisation has worked hard to build up trust and that trust has been jeopardised."

Bleak picture

While professor Staines praised the efficacy of the GAA to cease all club activities in the wake of some celebrations and a lack of social distancing at games.

He also painted a bleak picture for the next few weeks.

"We're seeing rising numbers in cases rising numbers in hospital admissions and rising numbers in ICU," observed Staines.

"Remember the number of cases today reflects the number of infections maybe five days or ten days ago. So we don't know what it is, but it's probably worse."

Staines believes the level three restriction may not be enough.

"It's the nature of this disease that it spreads very quickly," he said.

"We had 500 cases today, then we could easily have 800 or 900 cases in two weeks' time and that is going to put terrible pressure on our health services.

"There is a real and legitimate fear that our health services will be seriously stressed by what has been happening."

Staines is concerned by how underresourced the health services are for a 'second wave'.

"We are more geared up clinically, in that my colleagues know more about this now. We are not more prepared in terms of capacity.

"Before COVID was ever heard of, most people thought this winter was going to be very bad indeed. COVID is going to make this winter genuinely dire.

"There is every prospect that we will run out of basic health service capacity over the winter unless we bring the number of cases down.

GAA rearrangements

Milton did offer some hope for GAA fans with the imminent arrival of this year's Championship providing a distraction.

"We'll have a welcome distraction with the intercounty championship provided it proceeds, Hopefully, it will. People will have something to latch onto.

"They can still train away but the idea of county finals at this stage [...] We were fortunate to get as much club activity in as we did in a short space of time."

Read more about

All-Ireland Football Championship All Ireland Championship All Ireland Hurling Championship Cluub Championship Coronavirus Covid-19 GAA GAA Championship Intercounty Championship Lockdown