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Clare GAA secretary Pat Fitzgerald with chairman Joe Cooney (right). Photograph by John Kelly.

Cooney says nation’s health is top priority

CLARE GAA County Board chairman Joe Cooney has said the nation’s health must be the number one priority when it comes to a decision on the resumption of any sporting activities.

His clear statement comes ahead of a special GAA congress, to be held remotely, on this Friday to propose decision-making flexibility to for a variation in competition structures, if required, in advance of resuming games.

Clare GAA will be represented at what could be termed a “personal distancing conference” by the board’s Central Council representative Simon Moroney.

In a statement, the GAA at national level said it acknowledges the Government announcement of the extension of current restrictions until May 5 and its impact on the scheduling of sporting events and working practices, and “has factored the extension of the arrangements into its contingency planning”. 

Club activity remains suspended until May 5 and the senior inter-county championships, scheduled to begin in May, will be postponed until further clarity on the current situation is available. It is the association’s view that it is highly unlikely that the inter-county programme will be rescheduled any time before the beginning of July, at the earliest. 

“When sporting activity recommences, the GAA will accommodate both club and county games. The association also intends to complete the Allianz Leagues, or at least those games that have a bearing on next year’s divisions, where possible,” it was outlined in the statement issued by Alan Milton, GAA director of communications.

Referring to Friday’s congress, he said, “In keeping with the approach of the association since the start of this crisis, all of our decisions will be based on the advice of the medical professionals and the Government. Finally, the GAA would again like to thank our members and units for their support at this time and for continuing to adhere to the government guidelines.”

The Clare GAA chairman Joe Cooney said the delegates at the special congress would be asked to make tough decisions about the rescheduling of games for the rest of the season. 

“It is important to have an open discussion, so everybody is fully aware of how serious the situation is. With almost 11,500 people in Ireland suffering from the Coronavirus now and more than 400 having died in little over a month, we must be sure about when we can have games again. Even if it takes months, we must think about these figures; lives are at stake.

“At the moment, it’s very hard to call when we will see games at club or county level; it’s certainly not going be a return to normal overnight. We all accept that and can only take the advice of the health officials and the Government. It is best to take that on board,” said Joe, before paying tribute to everybody involved in the effort to curb the spread of the disease.

Joe said he would like to have clarity on the health implications for players, officials and supporters before a return to the playing fields in all sports.

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