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Small details will mean a lot in GAA return

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Donore Harriers coach Paul Clarkin sanitises a hurdle yesterday.

Donore Harriers coach Paul Clarkin sanitises a hurdle yesterday.

SPORTSFILE

Donore Harriers coach Paul Clarkin sanitises a hurdle yesterday.

Last month the All-Ireland final referee David Gough brought practical thinking to some of the challenges involved in a return to play for Gaelic games, if it is to happen this year.

While the focus is rightly on the issue of contact some of the other small details were brought to light in an interview he conducted with Game On on 2FM.

How, for instance, would four umpires pack into a referee's car and take off to a club or county ground without observing some form of distancing from each other, even if the two-metres Government guideline had been relaxed?

It might not, he suggested, be the most prudent way to start refereeing again.

And when they arrive at the ground, facilities for these officials can be compromised. He cited one club venue in his own county, Meath, where there was space to remain sufficiently apart. Even in Croke Park, the referee's room could not accommodate eight people, under such provisions.

"A lot of our umpires would be in the older age bracket and we need to be very careful about what we're exposing these people to,"Gough noted.

He also picked up on a not so obvious financial consideration. Could the GAA, already reeling from the financial hit of the disappearance of gate receipts and other revenue streams, afford to pay the travel expenses of five officials, where previously they covered one? It answers itself.

It was one small insight into the practicalities of staging amateur games, the pressure to do so being sure to increase as other games get up and running.

The GAA's Covid-19 advisory group is up and running for almost two weeks now and the decisions this group makes will be very much guided by the Government's 'Return to Sport' Expert Group, announced over the weekend.

In tandem with other sports, the GAA's advisory group will have to tease its way through every detail, just as Gough did from a refereeing viewpoint, that pieces a training session and game together, if the requirement of distancing in public has been relaxed sufficiently to remove the Association's red line, as pronounced by president John Horan last week.

Even if that distance conundrum hasn't been satisfied sufficiently to allow for games to go ahead, safety guidelines around the resumption of small-numbered team training will have to involve strict protocols.

Some of the detail around the return of training for Premier League teams is worth nothing.

Comparison with a professional team that will undergo regular testing and has considerable financial support, is difficult. But still, risk is risk, even if the context is different.

Car-pooling is not a thing among soccer's elite, but it is banned nonetheless. And when they do make the car parks of their facilities, at staggered appointed times, there'll be three spaces between them.

All equipment, from GPS monitors to corner flags and cones, will be on the pitch and sterilised. Even the pitch itself will be sterilised. Around buildings, continuous disinfecting will be in place. In some cases door handles will be removed to ensure doors remain open.

Again, that's a professional entity with the means to do it. And this is to provide for the coming weeks, not further down the line beyond July 20, the earliest date the GAA has indicated it will crank back up into action.

Yet that date still seems so far away. So much can change, not least opinion around the continued closure of GAA facilities which has taken a considerable shift since that last GAA statement.

But Premier League sanitary and safety provisions still give an insight into the level of detail that will be required on a smaller scale.

No car-pooling in GAA effectively means no GAA. There is no other way, in many cases.

As for disinfecting equipment - balls, cones, GPS packs - that would require a greater number of people to ensure discipline and vigour around such practices.