By Muireann Duffy
The GAA is calling for the Government to reconsider their decision to extend current restrictions on outdoor gatherings, calling it a “hammer blow to the organisation”.
On Wednesday, Taoiseach Micheál Martin announced that the moving to phase four of the easing of lockdown restrictions would be postponed to August 10th.
In phase four, outdoor gatherings of up to 500 people will be permitted to take place, but until then, only gatherings of up to 200 people is allowed.
As GAA club championship are due to commence this evening, GAA president John Horan is urging the Government to give the association permission to increase the number of people permitted to attend games.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Mr Horan said the increase to 500 people is needed in order to allow county boards to cater to demand.
As things stand, the 200 people allowed to attend matches would include all players, managers, backroom staff, officials and spectators. The size of panels from larger clubs would therefore have a huge effect on the number of spectators allowed entry.
“If you take those involved in the teams and stewarding out of it, you’re probably looking at 120 supporters going to a game,” said Mr Horan.
If you work out the dimensions of a GAA pitch, that allows for social distancing of four metres between everybody attending the match.
“We have stadia throughout the country which can cater from anything from 6,000 to 50,000 people and to say that you can only have 120 supporters put in… I think the volunteers in our organisation acted totally responsibly in this pandemic and I don’t think if we allowed them to increase the attendance from 200 to 500 that they would act irresponsibly.”
Although critical of the crowd restrictions, Mr Horan ensured that the organisation would continue to follow NPHET guidelines.
“I would still urge people to be cautious, wear the face-masks,” he said.
“All we are trying to do is get people to be active outside and there is a pent-up demand for people to go to these matches.
“I don’t think by calling for an increase from 200 to 500 that I’m putting public health or anybody at risk.”
The club action will kick off around the country from this evening with St Martin’s clash against Oulart-The-Ballagh in the Wexford Senior Hurling championship being televised on TG4 from Wexford Park.
Sunday’s Dublin Senior Hurling pairing of Kilmacud Crokes and Ballyboden St. Enda’s will also be shown on TG4, some consolation for the large crowd expected to attend the repeat of the 2018 county final.