CASUAL CONTACT Referee Seán Reilly and Breaffy’s Aidan O’Shea go past each other during Saturday’s Michael Walsh Secondary Senior League match against Garrymore. Pic: Sportsfile
THE aborted Michael Walsh clash between Louisburgh and Balla on Saturday gave us all a glimmer into the very uncertain future that is GAA action in the coming weeks.
A confirmed case of Covid-19 in the Louisburgh area led to the game being pulled.
In a statement on Saturday, Louisburgh GAA Club said they ‘acted in an overly cautious way going beyond protocols with the best interests at heart of the two clubs’.
By this they mean they informed Balla GAA, who then had concerns about the extent of the situation and decided that it might be safer not to travel, especially for a secondary league game.
It has to be said both clubs acted with honour and integrity here in the most uncertain of times.
Louisburgh stated that in future they will follow ‘the protocols in place set down by the HSE and the GAA … as we navigate these challenging times’.
Effectively this would mean that, because no-one in the club was a close contact of the confirmed case, the game should have proceeded.
The caution displayed by both clubs is fully understandable and if cases continue to rise – as many fear they will – then this is a crossroads we will return to again and again.
Of course the chances of games being called off because of connections within a club or clubs of a confirmed case are ever present.
Sadly, this is especially the case when you hear strong anecdotal evidence of GAA clubs using their dressing rooms, contrary to firm public health advice. That’s a huge worry.
So too are some of the examples around the country we are hearing of players travelling from overseas to play. It beggars belief, but perhaps we should not be too surprised.
This devil-may-care attitude is quite prevalent in the GAA in normal times. Players are often told ‘you’ll be grand’ when pressurised to return early from injury and taking chances is an Irish cultural trait. We often pick and choose what laws should apply to us and which ones shouldn’t.
An emerging trait in the GAA in recent years is a ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality which has crossovers with the feckless attitudes. A feckless attitude to Covid-19, combined with a ‘win-at-all-costs’ mentality is — make no mistake about it — a deadly combination.
Anyone playing GAA these weeks ought to feel blessed to do so and while ‘championship is championship’, this is not a year for pushing any boundaries.
The public health advice – and it’s exactly that, guidelines rather than rules – is clear.
There’s no wriggle room here.
Football and all sport right now is merely an outlet, an escape. Winning matters, but only after clubs have ensured they have attended to all public health guidelines. The GAA season could come to a close at any stage and too many within the organisation will need to have a long look in the mirror if that happens.
The coming weeks will be a test of every branch of the GAA from clubs to county boards to Croke Park. Everyone is learning on the hoof but acting within public health guidelines has to be the yardstick for every decision.
If everyone shows the leadership, concern for others, caution and decency shown by Balla and Louisburgh last weekend, we will be much safer than others who may display a feckless attitude to a worldwide pandemic.
As JFK famously said, ‘ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country’.