The GAA’s Covid Advisory Group met this evening to consider the outcome of a meeting between the three Gaelic Games governing bodies (GAA, Ladies Gaelic Football Association and Camogie Association) and representatives of the lrish Government, including the Minister of State for Sport, which took place earlier this week. The meeting was held to brief the governing bodies on the short-term prospects for a return to training and playing of our games. The Government representatives clarified that inter-county Gaelic Games activity is not covered under the current Level 5 exemptions for elite sports. As such a return to inter-county training or games is not permitted under the current restrictions. It was also clear that there will not be any change to this position post-March 5th when the restrictions currently in place are reviewed.
It is the view of the GAA’s Covid Advisory group that no on field activity will be permitted – training or games – until Easter at the earliest. ln the interim, it is expected that the Government will publish an updated “Living with Covid” plan which should provide clarity on when clubs and counties will be allowed return to training and games. It should also provide clarity on when other off-field club activities can resume. This extended delay to the planned return of the inter county season will have knock-on effects for both the inter county and club games programmes originally planned for 2021. As of now the GAA have made no firm decisions on what competitions may or may not be facilitated in any revised fixture programme – such decisions will be a factor of how much time is available both for an inter county season and for the broader participation levels that will be necessary for a meaningful club season. While the GAA begin to look at contingency plans for the Master Fixtures programme, they will not be able to take definitive decisions in this context until there is a clear picture of what restrictions will operate at various points in the year ahead. Once clarity is provided by Government and Public Health Authorities on the likely road ahead for society generally, and sport in particular, the GAA will follow with its own roadmap and plan for activities at both inter-county and club level and the will cover whatever time is available for the remainder of the year.
These latest developments are a great disappointment to those anxious to resume their Gaelic Games involvement, be it on or off the field. While Ireland remains in the midst of a deadly pandemic there is significant cause for optimism that much better days lie ahead. The manner in which the GAA have endured and overcome thus far, both as individual members and as an Association generally, has been praised by many and is a cause of great pride to the Association. With help and co-operation from GAA units and members there will eventually be a fulfilling 2021 season at club and county level in 2021, as in 2020.