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WATCH: GAA Ard Stiúrthóir Tom Ryan discusses GAA response to Covid 19 pandemic


GAA.ie: Tom, the GAA has announced a total cessation of all GAA activity until after March 29. Can you explain to all our members why we arrived at that point:

GAA Ard Stiúrthóir, Tom Ryan: Well, John, we've been monitoring the situation closely over the course of the last week or two as I'm sure everybody in the country has. We were in close touch with the HSE and the health authorities we had been spending quite a bit of time in here. We assembled a small team to look at various eventualities and contingencies that might come into play in certain circumstances. Up to yesterday and the day before you know we had very much adopted a watching brief and we were advising all units and all clubs to abide to the letter to the guidance that was issuing from the HSE.

I suppose things changed for us a little bit yesterday morning on two fronts and ironically enough we had our little group assembled at the time and we were planning through a couple more scenarios when word came through that the Taoiseach was due to make an announcement so we deferred everything and we went to listen to what the Taoiseach had to say.

I suppose like everybody else we would have had certain indications that those things were going to be announced and they changed things for us on two fronts.

The first one being the closure of schools and the second one being the restriction on mass events. So, with those two things in mind, that very much changed our approach. We had been considering things like playing games behind closed doors.

We had been looking at you know how practical it would be to continue out certain competitions or play at certain levels and not at others and so on, but I think what was important yesterday was two things.

Firstly to act swiftly and unambiguously and secondly to be as clear as possible. When you look down through the schedule of games that were ahead of us for this weekend in particular. Off the top of my head there were maybe 22/23 games and over that list there were 15 or 16 that were critical in terms of where League positions might end up or who might be promoted and so on.

When we talked ourselves about playing games behind closed doors, playing 15 or 16 games out of 22, and then looking at a following week then subsequent. That looks very much like for the fixture program and I think that would been very much out of out of touch with what the country needs to do at the moment and it wouldn't look or feel right to have the GAA playing, albeit behind closed doors, an almost full inter-county fixture program.

So, we decided very, very quickly that that's something that we weren't going to do. The second facet, I suppose, was the school closures and it was very, very difficult to envisage a scenario where 30 or 40 children can be prohibited from assembling in a school classroom but they can gather and assemble on a GAA club ground later on.  That's not tenable.

 So, when we learned what was in the announcement from the Taoiseach and the guidelines, we assembled fairly quickly.

We spoke to as many people as possible in terms of the provinces and the counties and we spoke to our sister organizations. We convened a very quick board meeting to go over what was planned and envisaged. There was a briefing to be scheduled in government buildings in the afternoon yesterday but we didn't wait for that. We just felt it was important to be clear and unambiguous in terms of directions for clubs so we issued an instruction to all units in Ireland and in Britain actually interestingly enough that we're going to ask people to cease on-pitch activities. We want no training or matches until the end of March.

GAA Ard Stiúrthóir, Tom Ryan. 
GAA Ard Stiúrthóir, Tom Ryan. 

GAA.ie: So what happens now? Are there any particular directives or advice you have for GAA members and units?

GAA Ard Stiúrthóir, Tom Ryan: Well what's paramount with all of this is that this is a health situation it's not a sporting one. So we have to be guided and governed by the directions that are given to us by the health authorities and we asked clubs to do exactly the same.

Any areas of ambiguity or anything they're uncertain about, come and ask us by all means. But, secondly, you know, the guidelines in terms of mass events, the maximum of 500 people outdoors and 100 people indoors, that's paramount. People have to abide by that.

At its simplest level there will be no GAA collective training for any team any level, any grade, any code, until the 29th of March. And there would be no Gaelic Games matches, be they club, school, inter-county until the 29th of March.

Thereafter there are other things that happen in clubs, I know that.

We'll be communicating in detail with clubs today about this some of the do's and don'ts. It's impossible to issue discrete and specific instructions about every specific eventuality, but, in general, the theme of the whole thing for the next couple of weeks is mass gatherings and social distancing.

People should be well aware of what those two things mean. I'd ask people to again consult with the HSE guidelines and to abide by those within their clubs.

So, in terms of gatherings of people, in terms of meetings, in terms of any kind of interaction that has to go on, limit activity to what's absolutely essential and make sure we're abiding by the HSC guidelines.

GAA.ie: Hopefully competitions will resume after March 29th but, in terms of the future of our competitions this year...I know it's a fast-moving situation, but what are your thoughts on that?

GAA Ard Stiúrthóir, Tom Ryan: I honestly don't know John. All of the effort that we put in in the last two weeks has been planning for where we are today and how we might implement certain measures in certain scenarios.

That has come to pass. I think what we need to do now is sit down and consider how we reignite the whole program or what parts of it or in what sequence or where.

 We'll put a bit of thought and a bit of work into that, but, to be honest, John, I really don't know what that looks like and it's been incredible even how quickly the situation has changed and evolved over the course of the last two or three days.

The most important thing now is not football or hurling, it's the health of the country and there's a lot of ways that the GAA can contribute to that.

So, what I'd really ask people to do is, we took a very grave step and we took it with a very heavy heart yesterday, but for people in GAA clubs to give that their best shot and abide by those as best they can because I think the better that we observe what we’re being asked to do now hopefully the shorter the closed period will be.

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