No Gaelic games activity until Easter at the earliest
There will be no Gaelic games activity – training or games – at any level, including inter-county, until Easter at the earliest.
This directive follows a meeting between the GAA's Covid Advisory Group yesterday evening to consider the outcome of a meeting between the three Gaelic games governing bodies (GAA, Ladies Gaelic Football Association and Camogie Association) and representatives of the lrish government, including the Minister of State for Sport, Jack Chambers, which took place earlier this week.
The meeting was held to brief the governing bodies on the short-term prospects for a return to training and playing of Gaelic games, but with government representatives clarifying that inter-county Gaelic games activity is not covered under the current Level 5 exemptions for elite sports, a return to inter-county training or games is not permitted under the current restrictions.
Furthermore, there will not be any change to this position post-March 5, when the restrictions currently in place are to be reviewed. It is the view, therefore, of the GAA's Covid Advisory Group that no on-field activity will be permitted – training or games – until Easter at the earliest (Sunday, April 4, is Easter Sunday this year).
The government is expected to publish an updated Living With Covid plan which should provide clarity on when clubs and counties are likely to be allowed return to training and games in 2021. It should also provide clarity on when other off-field club activities may be permitted to resume.
This extended delay to the planned return of the inter-county season will have knock-on effects for both the inter-county and club games programmes originally planned for 2021, GAA president John Horan and director general Tom Ryan have explained.
“As of now, the GAA have made no firm decisions on what competitions may or may not be facilitated in any revised fixture programme – such decisions will be a factor of how much time is made available to us, both for an inter-county season and for the broader participation levels that will be necessary for a meaningful club season.
“While we will begin to look at contingency plans for the master fixtures programme, we will not be able to take definitive decisions in this context until we have a clear picture of what restrictions we are likely to be operating under at various points in the year ahead.
“Rest assured, however, that once clarity is provided by government and public health authorities on the likely road ahead for society generally and sport in particular, the GAA will follow with its own roadmap and plan for our own activities at both inter-county and club level, that will cover whatever time is available to us for the remainder of the year.
“We know these latest developments will come as a great disappointment to all those who are anxious to resume their Gaelic games involvement, be it on or off the field. While we remain in the midst of a deadly pandemic, there is significant cause for optimism that much better days lie ahead.
“The manner in which we have endured and overcome thus far, both as individual members and as an association generally, has been praised by many and is a cause of great pride to us all. With your help we are certain that we will eventually have a fulfilling season at both club and county level in 2021, just as we had in 2020.”
Under the master fixtures programme, a split season was to be implemented this year, but this time with inter-county activity coming first, with All-Ireland finals in July or August and club action to follow for the remainder of the year.
Last year, after the pandemic brought all activity to a halt, it was the club season which resumed first and was played to a conclusion before a revised inter-county season ran between October and December.
The GAA is likely to give county teams a four-week window to prepare for this year's inter-county season, which would mean no games until early May at least. In that scenario, it's difficult to see the calendar being able to squeeze in the hurling and football National Leagues as well as the provincial and All-Ireland championships.
In their statement, Mr. Horan and Mr. Ryan thanked all GAA members, players, coaches, managers and officers at all levels for their patience and understanding of the current situation and for co-operating with all of the restrictions that have been put in place.
They said also that they will prepare a revised master fixture calendar and plan for the remainder of 2021 once a new government road map for society and sport is made available.