THE scenes of delight being expressed by the victorious Limerick supporters last Sunday were a joy to behold, once the pain of loss had subsided for Cork supporters.
But even those scenes couldn’t dampen the sense of disappointment felt by thousands of viewers who had watched the final live and saw the extent of the lack of mask wearing in the crowd.
The majority of those same supporters – yes, on both sides – appeared to have ignored pleas from Croke Park and Department of Health medics to wear masks at all times in the stadium.
The decision to allow 40,000 spectators on site meant the 2m distance guideline was never going to be a runner, but, therefore, the mask-wearing advice was all the more relevant.
A festival in the Netherlands shocked officials after 1,000 coronavirus infections were linked to the event in July, despite it requiring a test for entry. It was attended by 20,000 people over two days. Yet we allowed double that number of people to scream, shout and sing in close proximity to each other, without any testing regime and without any enforcement of mask-wearing protocols.
What’s more, the pictures on social media of throngs congregating in the streets around the stadium having drinks before and after the match made it look like any pre-pandemic All Ireland final day.
When asked if the GAA had ‘let down the government’ by allowing such a lack of mask-wearing at the final, Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney sounded incredibly uncomfortable and fudged his answer on the radio on Tuesday, repeatedly referring to the photos ‘before and after’ the game.
There is no doubt that the GAA handed an open goal to the lobbyists in the music industry who have been very vocal in their demands for bigger crowds at concerts and festivals.
For those 35,000 people in the entertainment industry who have been left without work for over 17 months, it must have seemed like a real kick in the teeth to see thousands of people check by jowl, before, during and after last Sunday’s hurling final, with hardly a mask between them.
Of course, there were those responsible supporters who wore their masks throughout the game, but with a variant that is so transmissible and can cause so much damage to as-yet unvaccinated people, the country needs everyone to continue to be vigilant – and not just a few.
The decision to allow 40,000 people into one sports stadium highlighted the discrepancies we have seen in so many sectors of society throughout the various reopenings. So many vested interests have felt left behind at various stages along the way.
The religious organisations, the publicans, the carers, the gardaí, the teachers … and more … at one time, or another, felt their voices weren’t being heard.
It is incumbent on our government members to try and bring the entire population with them as we attempt to emerge, albeit slowly and carefully, from this darkest of times.
Announcements will be made this week on future reopenings and more relaxations of guidelines. But with case numbers still rising, and NPHET telling us the ‘peak’ has not yet been reached, it is imperative we keep one eye on hospital numbers, and remember our overworked and exhausted medical teams are almost at breaking point.
Every little thing we can do to ease the burden on them, and our health services, will be of benefit as winter approaches.
As the slogan says, every little helps. And, to add another – because they’re worth it.