AT this point in time I would like to appeal for patience and calm among inter-county managers and, indeed, club teams.
Now that the date has been given for a return, teams will be eager to get that head-start and may be tempted to return before they are allowed. In your head that decision makes perfect sense as you will see it as an opportunity to get a leg up on your opponents, but what happens if it all goes wrong and your actions land us all back at square one again?
The above paragraph was part of last week’s article and the ink was barely dry on the paper when photographs appeared the next morning of the Dublin footballers partaking in a collective training session.
Let me start by saying that even before I penned that piece last week I had heard a lot of stories about county teams and club teams being back training for this last number of weeks. After last week‘s announcement, the hope was that things would start to move rapidly and if people held their horses we all might have been allowed back on our training pitches sooner rather than later.
After last week’s breach, things seem a little uncertain again as to the restart dates and, in particular, the release of the master fixture plan that was due this week.
At this point in time I would like to point out that I believe Dublin were wrong in what they did but by no means am I going to jump on the hypocritical bandwagon that has been circulating this week. I saw the pictures, I read the reports and all of last week I sat back and listened to what other former players and pundits – and indeed GAA officials – had to say about the whole thing.
I listened as ex-players from counties all over Ireland stuck the boot into the Dubs. If I was the journalist conducting those interviews my first question would been ‘have you heard stories of your own county team training?’ I wonder what the answer would have been.
It’s very easy to jump on someone when they are down and that’s certainly the case for the Dubs because of their recent success. Everyone wants to taint their image.
Do any of you reading this seriously think that the Dublin senior football team are the only county team partaking in collective training sessions? If you do then you are far removed from reality.
A lot of people ask a question why do the Dublin team need to train, would that session ultimately lead to them warning another All-Ireland? The answer is probably no but you must understand that you’re dealing with individuals whose bodies know nothing else but feeling fit strong and athletic. The same goes for the players of Cork, Down, Galway, Donegal etc, these players and athletes are used to being in a training environment and their life needs structure. It may mean that going out in small groups is good for their own mental well-being.
I would bet my house that the photographer who took that picture of those nine lads kicking a ball around actually passed groups of runners and cyclists out doing exercise in small groups for the very same reason as those Dublin footballers.
We need a reality check here. Yes there are rules in place and the GAA hoped that players and teams would stick to these as much as possible, but we must understand that we are over a year into this now and people’s will power is starting to fade.
Government leaders who are on massive salaries should have the common sense to see this happening and perhaps design or create an environment where these athletes like our GAA players, like the runners and cyclists, can operate in small groups instead of doing it under the radar.
The best way out of this now for both the government and the GAA is to introduce a relaxation around sport and activity outdoors. Like I explained, this was easy to maintain in the first three, six even nine months, but now we have gone past the year people simply won’t listen anymore. The evidence states that transmission of the virus during outdoor sports is extremely low so I just cannot understand why we continue with the stringent measures.
If you took a business- like approach to this then you would be looking at how best to maximise your gains and eliminate risk.
Let’s just say club teams and county teams, soccer teams and rugby teams etc, were allowed to train outside. If this was allowed then chances are most of those teams would have training on a Saturday or Sunday morning. Instead of perhaps meeting at house parties for sociable drinks, where we know the virus spreads like wildfire, people would be committed to outdoor exercise.
Surely these discussions happen at some level within government circles and if not we really need to ask the question ‘why not?’
This week we need to get off the hypothetical bandwagon, face up to what is actually happening and look for a solution instead of trying to punish and stamp our authority all the time.
Let’s make changes that improve people’s lives and at the same time help them to keep doing the important things that stop the virus from spreading.