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I accept the need for regulations but what's happening right now is a joke

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Dr Crokes face Templenoe again today but without fans this time around

Dr Crokes face Templenoe again today but without fans this time around

SPORTSFILE

Referee Brendan Griffin throws the ball in to start the Kerry County SFC match between Killarney Legion at Kerins O'Rahilly's in front of no supporters at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, Kerry. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Referee Brendan Griffin throws the ball in to start the Kerry County SFC match between Killarney Legion at Kerins O'Rahilly's in front of no supporters at Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney, Kerry. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

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Dr Crokes face Templenoe again today but without fans this time around

Templenoe GAA club was founded in 1933. We are 87 years old this year. For much of that time we have struggled at the bottom rung of the Kerry football ladder.

Unable to field teams at juvenile level, we have had to amalgamate with Derryvane and Sneem 25 miles away.

On many occasions we had to ‘beg and borrow’ players before undertaking a two-hour drive to north Kerry for a senior league game.

Nonetheless, the club has stayed afloat. In recent years we have been fortunate to have a golden generation of adult players who have done us proud.

Last weekend tiny Templenoe played in the Kerry County Senior Football Championship for the first time. The significance of the occasion cannot be overstated.

We are probably the only senior club in the country which doesn’t have either a minor team or a national school.

We are the only rural club competing in the Kerry Senior Championship and the only club from Division 2.

Last Saturday we had a historic victory over Dingle in the first round of the Kerry Championship.

Due to the Covid-19 restrictions no one from the parish was present to witness the greatest hour in the history of our club.

I accept the need for regulations but what’s happening right now is a joke.

A friend rang on Saturday night and informed me that he had watched the match on TV in a packed pub in Dingle.

Meanwhile, a few hundred yards down the road the match was being played behind closed doors in driving wind and rain. The chance of the Covid-19 virus spreading in those conditions was close to zero. But there were no spectators allowed in.

And how did the Templenoe players celebrate their historic victory?

They togged off in the stand and – though wet, cold and fatigued – they had to drive for two hours before they could have a shower in their own homes. This is bonkers.

Last Sunday alongside my article there was a picture of the 13 people who stood on the terrace in Fitzgerald Stadium for the Templenoe v Dr Crokes match in the Kerry club championship last month.

Today the two sides met again in the quarter-final of the county championship, with Dr Crokes prevailing. There wasn’t anyone on the terrace or anywhere else in the stadium.

I wholeheartedly endorse the GAA’s request to NPHET to publish the information which led them to ban all spectators from Gaelic Games.

Consider the facts: on any given day 97,000 GAA members are either training or playing. More than five million medical forms have been completed by members.

There were 71,000 participants in the recently completed Cúl Camps with just one reported withdrawal because of a Covid-19 case. Contact tracing for the case concluded that the source of the infection was at another event.

This is real evidence that the GAA have shown responsibility and have taken the utmost precautions to ensure the safety of its players, members, and supporters.

NPHET’s dealings with the GAA leave a lot to be desired.

It took them three weeks to reply to an earlier request for information. And when it arrived, it was addressed to ‘John Horan, President of the GAA, Parnell Park, Dublin.’

Nearly two weeks has elapsed since the GAA sought evidence to support NPHET’s contention that crowds attending GAA matches were spreading the virus because they were congregating before and after games.

I believe there is a simple reason why NPHET has not responded. They don’t have the empirical scientific evidence to back up their decision.

I wouldn’t be surprised if it was primarily based on hearsay and anecdotal evidence.

On a different note, I welcome the assurances given by Horan (inset left), which were supported by the Taoiseach Micheál Martin, that there will be All-Ireland Championships in 2020.

It will act as an escape valve for beleaguered communities. The GAA is the glue that is holding us together.

As the Taoiseach said, holding the championship would be a symbol that the country is fighting the virus.

But it will come at a price because the GAA and the county boards need financial assistance. The government must step up to the plate and provide this assistance.

Questioning the handling of Covid-19 in recent times is like a forward being given a ball in front of an open goal. Critics cannot miss hitting the target.

So let’s end my Covid-19 contribution on a positive note. I like Micheál Martin. I think he is a genuine person, trying to do his best in very difficult circumstances.

There are too many people within his own party, as well as the government in general, scheming against him.

The one piece of advice I would give him is that clear communication is crucial.

When accepting the Democratic party’s nomination for the US Presidency Joe Biden borrowed this quotation from the famous American human rights activist Ella Baker: ‘Give light and people will find the way.”

That’s what Micheál Martin needs to do.

Online Editors