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Horan: No GAA as long as social distancing lasts

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John Horan. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

John Horan. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

John Horan. Photo by Harry Murphy/Sportsfile

GAA president John Horan has effectively ruled out a return to competitive action as long as social distancing measures remain in place.

Speaking on the 'Sunday Game' Horan said the risks of Covid-19 infection involved in GAA clubs, players and members getting back together too soon were too great and that's why facilities will remain closed until July 20 at the earliest.

Horan did say that the July 20 date could change if the public health picture changes but "policing" the guidelines in the Government roadmap was not a responsibility the Association was going to place on its volunteer members.

Horan said the GAA would be prepared to use the first two months of 2021 to finish a 2020 inter-county championship if it got going in October or November but cast doubt as to whether the 2020 Allianz Leagues will now be finished.

The president also confirmed the grim financial picture that will see Croke Park, at central and stadium level, lose between €25 and €30m and with club gates thrown in a loss for the overall Association of up to €50m.

Horan said the GAA's cautious approach was based on a determination not to have facilities develop into clusters and that social distancing protocols would be of paramount importance.

"If social distancing is a priority to deal with this pandemic I don't know how we can play a contact sport and that is what Gaelic games is, a contact sport," he said.

Horan said the GAA were initially taken by surprise by the details in the roadmap the Government released that allow facilities to open to groups of four on May 18, followed by non-contact training on June 9.

"I think everyone was taken by surprise on Friday night because no one knew what was coming. It did give everyone a bit of an uplift to feel that we were coming back. We had to examine it and look at it closely and there was a concept in it that people had to gather together in groups of four.

"But we felt that it couldn't be marshalled by people in our clubs because our clubs are led by a load of good quality volunteer people and to put the onus on volunteer people to make the decisions to police and organise training within our facilities, we just felt that would be too much on them.

"I've had contact since from one or two club chairmen who said 'thanks for taking it out of our hands' because we were concerned how we were actually going to police it.

"We took our time but I think we have taken the right decision. I think people's health and safety is the key to it all," he said of the decision to remain closed for business.

"We'll be taking our information from the health authorities to see is it safe and it's only if and when it's safe that we will actually allow training and our games to recommence.

"Taking that information on board we'll make that decision and we won't bring it up to the line. We'll be making that decision on a constant, we're on executive calls every day and we'll keep reviewing and updating so we'll be staying on top of things.

"Ultimately there is a huge responsibility to get this right and if one club, be it a playing area or whatever, developed into a cluster for the Covid 19 that would be a very bad day's work on our behalf and that's one thing we are very conscious of, that no of our facilities develop into cluster."

Horan reaffirmed a decision to gets club action up and running before counties, stating the decision overall will be based on contact, not numbers involved.

"We're quite comfortable to say that we are going to go with the club game first because it impacts on the greater number of people.

"Then we can actually make the decision to return to the inter-county game

However, hopes on the club front could be blown apart by the expected result of a survey carried out by the Club Players' Association (CPA).

The CPA has balloted its members asking a series of pertinent questions about their appetite to play this year, in light of the ongoing pandemic, and under the assumption that there is no available vaccine.

Chairman of the CPA Micheál Briody shared his fears by stating: "My own personal view is that there will be no games this year at all. Club or county."