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GAA may have to re-open pitches


THE WAITING GAME Connacht GAA Council Secretary John Prenty believes things will become clearer around Covid-19 restrictions later this month. Pic: Sportsfile

Mike Finnerty

THE GAA may have to review its decision to close club grounds all around the country in order to allow children access to practise their skills and exercise — if the current Level 5 restrictions remain in place for much longer.
That’s according to Connacht GAA Council CEO, John Prenty, who believes that a combination of schools being closed since the beginning of the year, and all GAA pitches being currently off-limits to underage members, is creating a major issue for children of all ages.
“The sooner we get kids back on their local pitches and playing fields again, the better,” he told The Mayo News last night.
“The GAA took a decision at national level, based on public health guidelines as much as anything, that GAA grounds would be closed to all activity. But depending on how long the country remains in Level 5 restrictions that may have to be reviewed and changed yet.
“It’s quite a complex issue in terms of controlling the numbers of children who could be in small pods for non-contact training at individual GAA clubs, but there’s no doubt that it would be a major boost for both the children and their parents.”
The Government and NPHET are expected to announce what changes, if any, are being made to the current Covid-19 restrictions on March 5 next.
“People just have to be patient,” said John Prenty. “We have to wait until the next Government announcement around restrictions, so I would expect us to know more later this month. The reality is that it’s very hard to plan too far ahead at the moment, the situation is just too fluid.”
Prenty also feels that it’s impossible to predict right now when the GAA inter-county season will be given the go-ahead to start — either in terms of collective training or matches.
He believes that a return to competitive action in mid-April would not have a major negative effect on the GAA’s fixture schedules; the National League could be played off over the course of three weekends with the Connacht SFC starting in mid-May and the All-Ireland SFC Final being played in mid-August.
However, a later start for inter-county could have knock-on consequences, he warned.
“If teams aren’t allowed to train collectively until mid-April, for example, you’re not looking at the season starting then until around mid-May. If that was to happen I think we’d have to look at the format for the National League,” explained the Ballyhaunis native.
“Depending on the level of restrictions at that time, it might even come down to playing some sort of a regional league competition along the lines of the FBD League, involving the Connacht counties. That way travel is a lot more localised.”
Meanwhile, the veteran GAA administrator also said that the Connacht GAA Council’s ‘Dome’ in Bekan had been made available to the HSE for use as a Covid-19 vaccination centre — if it was needed.
It was announced yesterday (Monday) that Breaffy House is to be used as the Mayo vaccination centre, one of the 37 across the country. However, John Prenty believes ‘The Dome’ would be ideal if ‘a mass vaccination of the population is required’ in the coming months.  
“We’d be more than happy to make it available for that purpose,” he said.

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