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comment I welcome the GAA's ban on club games - they needed to send out a clear message to their members and the entire nation

With the government finally standing up to NPHET it’s essential we avoid jeopardising All-Ireland

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1 September 2019; Supporters leave the stadium after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

1 September 2019; Supporters leave the stadium after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

1 September 2019; Supporters leave the stadium after the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Dublin and Kerry at Croke Park in Dublin. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Last weekend we had a very special family occasion. Our daughter Shona got married. Due to the Covid-19 regulations it was a small wedding - not even Shona's closest friends could attend.

She was due to get married in June but rescheduled it for last Saturday as it was her wish to get married in 2020.

She fulfilled that wish, marrying the love of her life, Liam. We had a great day.

My God, what a lucky break we got. Only 25 would have been allowed to attend had the wedding taken place yesterday.

As the celebrations drew to a close on Sunday night, word quickly spread of the National Public Health Emergency Team's recommendation that the entire country move to Level 5 - essentially a total lockdown.

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Getting the Championship played is the goal and players like Donegal’s Michael Murphy will be raring to get back into action

Getting the Championship played is the goal and players like Donegal’s Michael Murphy will be raring to get back into action

SPORTSFILE

Getting the Championship played is the goal and players like Donegal’s Michael Murphy will be raring to get back into action

Those present were dumbfounded and frightened.

NPHET decided to go for the nuclear option.

There could hardly be a better example of a message being cack-handed and poorly thought through.

For any plan to have a chance of success it must be clearly communicated and most certainly not leaked.

And there must be an effort made to bring the public on board. Again, this was absent.

What happened on Sunday night was the straw that broke the camel's back. It has burst NPHET's allure of infallibility forever.

I have consistently written here for months that NPHET had become too powerful.

Far too many of their decisions were not evidence-based. I refer, in particular, to the playing of games and the presence of spectators at these matches.

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Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

Taoiseach Micheál Martin

They have yet to provide any empirical evidence to confirm that playing games or the presence of supporters inside grounds resulted in any cluster of Covid-19 cases.

For the last six months it was a case of the tail wagging the dog when it came to the relationship between NPHET and the government.

As one government source put it, 'it was easy for 40 well-heeled public servants to put 400,000 people out of their jobs while they don't lose a penny'.

Last Monday the government finally took full control of dealing with the pandemic. This is what we elect government to do. They take decisions and show leadership.

This is what happened on Monday.

The government rejected NHPET's recommendations. Instead, they took a balanced decision based on social, economic and all medical grounds rather than just Covid-19 issues.

Look, I'm not a contrary right-wing activist. I am passionate and outspoken, but I base my arguments on evidence.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic we have given access across all sections of the media to a disproportional number of individuals with a narrow focus and an anti-government agenda.

There hasn't been enough balance and there has been too much scaremongering in the Covid-19 discussion.

By and large these commentators come from the well-paid confines of academia. They have never had to put their theories into practice.

It is all very well for them to spread fear and demand total lockdowns, given the comfortable six-figure salaries many of them receive.

The views expressed on Prime Time by Dr Martin Feeley finally brought some balance to the debate. He challenged the prevailing narrative.

Lest we forget, his views resulted in him losing his job as the Clinical Director of the Dublin Midlands Hospital Group.

His comments were not just thought-provoking but rang true. He said people were scared, depressed, and frightened.

They were living in fear and in a state of panic. He called for an end to the draconian restrictions which would then enable young people to live a life rather than just exist.

That's why I welcome the government's decision to challenge the NPHET narrative and take ownership of the crisis.

To borrow a sporting analogy, the ball is very much in our court now.

We must all take personal responsibility - which many of us have not done in recent times - for our behaviour.

As Taoiseach Micheál Martin said on Monday night 'Ní neart go cur le chéile.' There is no strength without unity.

Left reeling on Sunday night when NPHET launched their Scud missile, my mood became crankier on Monday when the GAA announced they were banning all club activity.

Initially I was very angry. I felt the GAA had panicked and jumped the gun.

As the week progressed, I started to see their decision in a different light, and I came around to accepting why the GAA had acted.

There was an element of overreaction - banning the playing of under-age matches, for example, makes little or no sense.

The GAA shouldn't have to carry the can for what happened after matches and, in particular, the post-county-final celebrations which have received plenty of airing on social media.

I'm not condoning what happened, but I worry about an overreaction to it.

My plea to everybody is not to demonise the clubs, players, or fans for letting their emotions get the better of their judgement.

There was an element of political nous about the GAA's decision on this.

Essentially, it was a pre-emptive strike aimed at quelling the surge of negative publicity which was threatening to erupt over a series of issues.

Aside from the celebrations aspect, there was a growing disquiet about the number of spectators which were gaining admission to matches, and their behaviour once inside the grounds. Few wore masks and there was no real effort made to do social distancing.

These issues were within the remit of the GAA and could have been better regulated - but most county boards just turned a blind eye to what was happening.

The GAA needs the government on its side right now. Essentially, they are depending on the €15m aid package promised by the government to enable the All-Ireland series to be played. They cannot afford to jeopardise that grant.

So, to cut to the chase, I welcome the GAA's ban.

They needed to send out a clear message to their members and, indeed, the entire nation.

To pardon the pun, we have taken our eye off the ball.

We have become casual and lazy in relation to the rules surrounding the virus.

We have adopted an a-la-carte approach to the regulations, turning a blind eye to clear breaches.

As a friend of mind suggested: "We were tearing the arse out of it."

It couldn't carry on and it couldn't be ignored. So, the GAA were right to sound the clarion call.

Everybody wants to see the All-Ireland championships played as it will give a bit of spirit to those thousands of people who love hurling and Gaelic football.

Hopefully the GAA's move will ensure that we are taken back on the straight and narrow again and taking personal responsibility for what we do every day.

We're at the 11th hour - let's not mess it up now.