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A close call for Mayo

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READY FOR ACTION Aidan O'Shea and Darren Coen walking the pitch before the Connacht GAA Senior Football Championship semi-final between Mayo and Leitrim at Elverys MacHale Park in Castlebar on Sunday. The game only got the go-ahead a few hours before throw-in after concerns about Covid cases in the Mayo camp Pic: Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

Championship clash with Leitrim only got go-ahead on Sunday morning

Michael Gallagher

THE Mayo footballers’ clash with Leitrim in the Connacht senior championship last Sunday only received the green light to go ahead a few hours before it was due to start due to Covid issues in their squad.
The Mayo News has learned that public health officials and GAA chiefs only gave the go-ahead for the match to proceed on Sunday morning after rapid antigen tests cleared enough  of the Mayo players to take part and allow the fixture to be fulfilled.
Had the game not been played, Mayo could have been forced to withdraw from the championship.
Connacht GAA Council secretary, John Prenty, told The Mayo News last night the situation was unclear only hours before throw-in as HSE officials decided whether it was safe to proceed or not.
“If the public health people deemed it was an unsafe environment then it wouldn’t have gone ahead,” explained Prenty. “You never know with this thing. A number of [Mayo] players had already been ruled out and if you had another cohort going down on Sunday morning then the decision would be taken out of our hands.
“If there had been a major increase in infections or a full outbreak in the camp then the question would have been asked and someone would have had to answer it,” he said.
The Mayo News understands that a number of the Mayo senior football squad and management attended the MacHale Park Covid Testing Centre in Castlebar on Friday morning. The results of their tests were received later that day.
A number of Mayo players were ruled out of Sunday’s game while others in the group had to undergo rapid antigen testing on Saturday and again on Sunday morning.
While all of this was taking place, there was a constant stream of communication between the Connacht Council, Croke Park and the health authorities as Prenty explained.
“I was involved with Croke Park and they were in contact with the HSE. The GAA have a Covid advisory group and Fergal McGill (GAA’s Director of Player, Club and Games Administration) was in Castlebar on Sunday to see everything was in order.
“If enough people tested positive on Sunday there was a possibility that Mayo were out of the championship because they wouldn’t be able to play the following week either and the Connacht final is on July 25,” he added before praising the work of the Mayo backroom team during the challenging few days.
“In fairness to Dr Seán Moffatt [Mayo team doctor], in particular, he did a marvellous job in getting those fellas right for the game and everyone worked together for the safety of all.”
When contacted by The Mayo News on Sunday evening, Dr Moffatt said: “Mayo GAA actively engaged with public health and adhered to all their testing advice in the lead up to today’s game. The players deserve huge credit for their behaviours and positive attitude during this process.”
Meanwhile, Dr Martin Daly, who is a GP in Ballygar, Co Galway, as well as the Roscommon senior football team doctor, told The Mayo News that there is a simple rule of thumb surrounding all Covid matters in a sports team environment.
“The first priority is the health and safety of the player; the second is the players’ family and close contacts, and the third priority is the team. Nothing comes before the health of the player and the people he’s mixing with. The GAA is very clear about that and works very closely with public health at all times.”
The Mayo News understands that a number of Mayo footballers will be unable to train collectively this week as preparations continue for Sunday week’s Connacht final against Galway.
The provincial final has been scheduled to take place in MacHale Park, Castlebar on Sunday, July 25 but the Connacht GAA Council are investigating the possibility of holding the match in Croke Park in order to accommodate more supporters for the much-anticipated clash.