Mayo await green light from Croke Park before roadmap for all clubs is unveiled
IT is going to be a summer like no other as far as club football and hurling in Mayo is concerned.
"A celebration of our games. There is a certain amount of trepidation too but there is a great deal of excitement and anticipation amongst players and clubs," as chairman of the Mayo GAA Central Control Committee (CCC) Con Moynihan said as he unveiled the plans for the path ahead.
Players have been itching to kick a ball or handle a sliothair in a competitive environment and they will certainly not be disappointed as the CCC have been meeting on a regular basis to put a plan together, so that the club championships can be played and players and spectators emerge safely at the other end.
The big question is how is it going to work, and that will be revealed as soon as Croke Park and the government issue guidelines to the clubs as well as the county boards in relation to safety measures to be introduced at all games.
What numbers of spectators will be allowed into games and how it will be regulated is not clear just yet but Con Moynihan pointed out that Mayo are well ahead of the posse having prepared their calendar in anticipation of games and training restrictions being lifted.
Said Mr. Moynihan: "We have been meeting as a committee on a regular basis and have been in touch with all the in effort to draw up plans that will suit everyone, including hurling and underage teams, and we have our dates now set in stone to run off the club championships at senior, intermediate and junior level in a space of 12 weeks.
"Now all we can do is away for the guidelines to emerge from Croke Park in relation to a number of safety issues, and that should be forthcoming later this week."
The obvious fear for both players and supporters is how will the guidelines be in relation to social distancing, the numbers allowed to attend games and what etiquette will need to be in place to protect players, particularly before games and after games, and, of course, during that half-time pep talk from the manager, which is such an integral part in motivating teams.
Every club will have their own Covid-19 officer and Croke Park will be providing a training programmes for each officer, who will carry the huge responsibility of ensuring safety measures and guidelines are strictly adhered to in training and in games.
"The Covid-19 officer will have an important role to play if our return to training and playing games is going to be a success, but I do feel the clubs are really going to make this work", said Mr. Moynihan.
Quite wisely, Mayo decided to run a round of the newly reformed county leagues on the opening week of football and hurling on July 31.
"We felt it would be important that players would not be going straight into the heat of a championship battle when they are experiencing their first taste of championship action, so it was with that in mind that we felt a round of league matches might be the best way to get the ball rolling, so to speak," he said.
Mr. Moynihan said there was very little negative reaction from clubs to the timetable they have set out.
"A few months back a lot of clubs would be writing off the year entirely but I think the general consensus is that they are excited about getting back.
"My major worry was about player retention had we not been able to run any games this year, so hopefully the opening weekend will be a celebration of our games.
"There was a fear that the hunger might not be there with some players but there is clearly an air of anticipation, trepidation too, but above all excitement that the games are back," he said.
It was also incumbent on club managers to ensure any player they send on to a pitch is up to the fitness levels required so that injures can be avoided.
"I think it is fair to see the managers in our clubs have been more than responsible and most of them are experienced as players themselves.
"They are not going to start running fellows into the ground when they come back following such a long lay-off from regular training but they will gradually build things up so they are in good condition to be able to play football without risking injuries due to a lack of fitness," he said.
The Mayo CCC are taking a more cautious approach when it comes to the under age competitions, particularly at Under 14, Under 16 and minor (now Under 17), and no clubs will be allowed travel by buses for the foreseeable future.
"Obviously travel will be restricted as much as practicable and most games will be played at a divisional level in August and September until the knockout stages are reached.
"We are particularly concerned about parents having to travel to games and bringing other young players with them, so those kind of risks need to be looked at and we will have to look carefully at the guidelines in relation to these kind of issues.
"It makes no sense and there is too much risk involved in brining a team travel of 30 lads from Belmullet to Ballaghaderreen and to take on long journeys across the county, so as many games as possible will be localised for underage competitions.
"It is great that football is back and I and my committee want to thanks the clubs for their cooperation and indeed pay tribute to many of our clubs, who have more than played their part in helping out in community support programmes and fundraising as well as helping those who were isolated, particular the elderly.
"If anything, it has cemented the bond at community level between the GAA clubs themselves and the wider community," said Mr. Moynihan.
He added: "We also haven’t forgotten those who have been bereaved during this pandemic and all clubs will be observing a moment of silence at all games on the first day back in July to remember and celebrate the lives of those who have died, not just those who have fallen to Covid-19 but also those who have died in other ways, some in tragic circumstances."