CLARE GAA chairman Joe Cooney is very disappointed that attendances at hurling and football games must be restricted to 200 for the foreseeable future but accepts the Covid-19 guidelines must be adhered to protect everybody in the grounds.
“I, like everybody else involved in team sports, would love to see numbers go up to 500 but we must accept the delay on this, as part of not advancing to Phase 4 of reopening the country. We must go along with the Government’s decision in the best interest of our players, officials, groundsmen and fans. We must look after everybody from a health and safety point of view.
“I’m not in favour of games being played behind closed doors but that’s how it is. The atmosphere is not there; there’s nobody there to cheer the lads on,” he said.
The 200-person limit includes players, backroom teams, media, officials, stewards and the rest of the volunteers that assemble to stage matches – meaning that most GAA club matches have had a maximum of 100 fans in attendance.
GAA president John Horan’s a plea for crowds of 500 to be allowed at the association’s premier venues such as Croke Park, Semple Stadium and Páirc Uí Chaoimh drew no favour from Government.
“It’s good that we have Clare GAA TV to stream club games live and that has been working very well. This weekend, we will be steaming six hurling championship games live from Cusack Park and two deferred games from Shannon and Sixmilebridge,” Mr Cooney said.
He said Clare GAA hadn’t been approached by TG4 to broadcast games but would consider this if contact is made.
“I know it’s disappointing for supporters that they cannot follow their team, which is part of the community aspect of the GAA. Live streaming is a help to supporters that must now stay at home for the big games. At least they’re staying involved in some way,” he said.
The Clare GAA chair is looking forward to attendances being increased to 500, which had been targeted from Monday next, as well as a further easing of restrictions in the months ahead.
“I can’t wait until we have big attendances back at games in pitches around the county, but we all have to abide by the guidelines to get through the Covid-19 situation,” Mr Cooney said.
The GAA, FAI, IRFU and other sporting organisations had hoped that the numbers that could attend fixtures would be increased to 500, but the Cabinet baulked in the face of an increase in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the size of crowds gathering will remain at 200 for outdoors and 50 for indoors and that the evidence will be reviewed again in three weeks’ time.
Rugby also aimed to benefit as the Pro14 resumes on August 22, with Leinster facing Munster in the Aviva and Connacht matched against Ulster in the same venue on the following day.
This will now not be the case as the Government acts with extreme caution in the wake of rising Covid-19 cases around the country.