Sport

Covid scare in West Cork GAA is a wake-up call for everyone

July 19th, 2020 3:00 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Gates were closed at several GAA clubs in West Cork last weekend.

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While the Covid GAA story has moved on from West Cork after a few days when local clubs were at the epicentre of it, KIERAN McCARTHY outlines why, with championships approaching fast, players and clubs need to learn lessons from this warning

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WELL, what a wake-up call that was. If anyone thought we could breeze through the GAA season without any Covid-19 interference, reality slapped us all in the face this past week.

This was a warning that players and clubs need to take seriously because what unfolded in West Cork highlighted how brittle the upcoming championships appear to be – and it also hammered home how everyone needs to take personal responsibility and be aware that their actions can have far-reaching repercussions.

The rumour mill had already locked into overdrive before Argideen Rangers announced last Thursday evening that they were stopping all club activities as a precautionary measure because ‘a number of club members’ informed the Timoleague outfit that they may have been in contact with a person subsequently confirmed to have Covid-19. On Friday, both Ballinascarthy and St Oliver Plunkett’s released similar statements, that they were temporarily suspending all activity because, like with Argideen, club members were in contact with a person who had since tested positive for Covid-19.

All three clubs acted responsibly, swiftly and took the right action, as per GAA protocols which state that in the event of a suspected case of Covid-19, all activity must be stopped until public health contact tracers carry out full close contact assessment and testing.

Plunkett’s, in their statement, said they they shut down the club ‘as a preventive and precautionary measure, demonstrating responsibility and care for our community, and setting the best example we can for club members and the wider public.’ All three clubs set the right example. They did exactly what they should have done because the welfare and safety of their players, families and wider communities is far more important than a football or hurling match.

Any club that finds itself in a similar situation and that doesn’t act in a similar manner is letting itself down, but more so, its members and its community. There’s no shame in this. Covid-19 is a virus that doesn’t pick and choose who it infects. And there’s a responsibility on clubs and players to be honest here because we saw last weekend how the ripples spread throughout West Cork GAA and affected numerous clubs apart from Argideen, Ballinascarthy and Plunkett’s.

(Look at Douglas GAA Club this week who told members returning from trips abroad over the coming weeks that, in line with GAA guidelines, they are not to show up at the club for training or matches for 14 days after their return)

The good news is that the results of those Covid-19 tests all came back negative, so Argideen, Ballinascarthy and Plunkett’s resumed club activities this week – but every club and player needs to see this for the warning that it is.

Every person too must take a greater responsibility for their actions – just look at some of knock-on effects in West Cork last weekend. It wasn’t just the clubs at the centre of this but because by the time the three clubs became aware of the need for its members to be Covid tested, they had already taken part in various challenge games.

  • Three locals GAA clubs (Argideen, Ballinascarthy and Plunkett’s) stopped all club activities.
  • Another GAA club, who played one of the above teams in a challenge game, as a precaution, stopped all activity for 48 hours.
  • At least two more GAA clubs stopped all minor, junior and senior activity last weekend, as a precaution.
  • Players from one local GAA club, as a precaution, took Covid-19 tests (which came back negative).
  • One team from outside of the division pulled out of a challenge game with a Carbery club (from a different part of the division) last weekend because of what was going on at the time in West Cork.
  • The Carbery camogie team pulled out of the county senior championship, citing the health and safety of its players and clubs as paramount. Six clubs are involved in this divisional team. ‘God forbid anything happened, we could wipe out Carbery and it could bring it all to a standstill. We couldn’t take that chance,’ Carbery Camogie Secretary Mary Sexton explained.
  • The Carbery senior football team management has circulated a strict game-day protocol to its squad members, including asking players ‘to sign a declaration complying with social distancing protocols for 72 hours before game’. Basically, anyone socialising, etc., within 72 hours of the game will not be on the match-day squad.

We all know this summer has been a wash-out. But now that we have sport back, we can’t let our guard down because we saw what happened last weekend and how it affected so many clubs. If a similar situation unfolds in two weeks’ time when the championships are underway, there could be even bigger repercussions for teams and clubs. That’s why everyone needs to stick to the guidelines; they are there for a reason. More than ever, everyone needs to take responsibility for their own actions because maybe with the next party or get-together, the local GAA scene won’t be as lucky to escape unharmed.

The Covid GAA story might have moved on from West Cork – but lessons must be learned from this.

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