Fri. Nov 18th, 2022

The GAAs muted response to losing its exemption under Level 5 restrictions has been stressed by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.Further to Minister for State Jack Chambers claim the GAA did not seek a further exemption at this time, the department have said there was no urgency demonstrated by the GAA in their meeting earlier this week despite GAA director general Tom Ryans comment last week that a late March start to the Allianz Leagues was a definite possibility.An official told the Irish Examiner: Minister Chambers had a very positive engagement with the GAA, the LGFA, and the Camogie Association this week. At that meeting, the view was expressed that the GAA was ready to return to activity when the country was ready for it to return.
Speaking on RTÉ Radio One yesterday, Horan said the GAA was not in a rush to get going again.
We have an appetite to go back and play the games, but we feel, as both a management committee and the Covid advisory committee, that its not safe and it wouldnt be responsible to go back at the moment, such is the level of the virus within society, he said.
Horans comments are consistent with those expressed in last weeks letter, in that the GAA was not planning a return to inter-county activities until the end of the month at the earliest.
However, considering it is the view of the GAAs Covid-19 advisory committee that they may not resume until after Easter at the earliest, Horans tame reaction is notable especially after he took Nphet to task last August.
Perhaps he was buoyed by Taoiseach Micheál Martins comments yesterday morning that an exemption could yet be made for inter-county on Monday week.
In the context of the revising of the plan, we will look at sport and look at inter-county GAA, said Martin. I thought it worked well last year, the inter-county GAA situation, but it was always timed to end at the end of the year and so we will look at it afresh.
Its a pity nobody seemed to tell the GAA that their arrangement was over before they signed off on a master fixtures calendar for 2021 on December 19. The assumption was inter-county GAA was still exempt and by putting in place their own training ban until January 15 and then extending it to January 31, the GAA was simply being proactive.
According to Horan, he felt compelled to ask Chambers straight out at this weeks meeting about the exemption, although the updated restrictions on December 31 had removed inter-county GAA. Somebody, it would appear, dropped the ball.
Or did they? The GAAs soft response to supposedly being blindsided by this development would tally with an organisation who could badly do with another subvention from the Government towards the running of their competitions. There will be few complaints from the finance committee who warned of going county first or the finance department in Croke Park about the postponement. There are no expenses to be distributed, and the longer the delay the better chance there is of gate receipts.
In December, the finance committee warned of the large costs involved in opting for the inter-county season first. Horan; GAA director of club, player, and games administration Feargal McGill; and the majority of county chairpersons argued against that view, however.
So is it a case that those worried about the bottom line have got their way? Maybe their thinking has had an impact, but it would be a remarkable change of approach if they were to undo a lot of the work done by McGill, who showed strong leadership through the various crises last year and described going with county first in 2021 as a no-brainer.
Privately, the GAA know arguments made by the Government figures that the League of Ireland is a professional sport and can therefore bubble unlike inter-county teams are ridiculous.
Privately, they knew the Government were going to be all over a winter championship and now, as Mick ODwyer often said, the league is the league.
For all sorts of reasons, the GAA is on its best behaviour.
While it is not believed that reported training breaches by Cork and Down last month and anecdotal evidence of other teams coming together played any part in the Governments thinking, they did highlight all training was to cease upon exiting the championships: In correspondence to the GAA, Camogie Association and LGFA on October 22, the department advised the three associations that the Governments decision to permit the inter-county championships to proceed in the level 5 restrictions was a concession outside of the framework approved by Government.
The letter confirmed that teams eliminated from the championships would thereafter have to suspend their training activities.