• Sport

Government taking the ‘handy option’ leaving GAA scapegoated, says Fitzpatrick

Peter Fitzpatrick
Independent TD Peter Fitzpatrick. Photo Credit: Kathy Gilroy-Barry.

Louth County Board chairman Peter Fitzpatrick believes that GAA is being scapegoated by the government following the decision to move all sporting activity behind closed doors, denying spectators the chance to see their local teams compete in games in the ongoing club championships.

Tuesday’s move to ban all spectators from sporting events – despite opening them up to a maximum of 200 people at the end of June – has been widely criticised by those who feel much of the government’s latest set of guidelines, as guided by NPHET, are contradictory and confusing.

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With no spectators to facilitate, Louth GAA announced plans to move all scheduled GAA fixtures to the Centre of Excellence with games slated on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. 12 games, up from five last weekend, will be broadcast live on the LuTV platform, with the remaining three to be shown deferred after the games have finished.

Speaking on The Michael Reade Show on LMFM on Thursday morning, Deputy Fitzpatrick told host Ken Sweeney that while some reports claim a number of county board chairman around the country are seeking games to be called off, he is not in favour of that option.

“That wouldn’t be fair. These players and management teams have put in a lot of work over the last few weeks,” he said. He referred to comments made by Acting Chief Medical Office Dr Ronan Glynn on Wednesday that linked outbreaks of positive cases to sporting events.

“I’m disappointed that NPHET have come out and said that cases are linked to the GAA – we should know this from day one. I don’t want the same things that happened in nursing homes to happen to the GAA. I think the GAA is being used as a scapegoat. I don’t like it.

“I personally think that the government and the acting CMO are taking the handiest way out of this here by stopping people attending games,” the County Board chief said, accusing the government of action concerning outbreaks in direct provision centres and meat factories.

“We had our Championship games last weekend. Each club got 90 tickets each and the rest (20) were divvied out. I have never seen such a performance by anyone ever. 200 people. It was amazing. There were young people, middles aged people, elderly people. If we need to do more, we can do more.”

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Fitzpatrick went on to say that the guidelines coming from government were “totally and utterly confusing”.

“There’s been no communication between the GAA and the the government. When this Coronavirus came out first, thee GAA clubs and sports helped the government and local authorities. They called to people’s houses, they helped people get their shopping done. Now the communication lines have broken down. I can’t understand why.

“The GAA as an organisation, we want to help. There’s very, very bad communication at the moment between the government and the NPHET and John Horan,” he continued.

“I am a big fan of John Horan but I think the GAA has been very dormant over the last number of weeks. They haven’t said anything at all.”

At Championship games held at grounds across the county last weekend, clubs were issued with 90 tickets each to issue to players, coaches, officials and supports while an additional 20 were made available for extra spectators to bring the ground capacity up to the 200 maximum.

The Regional Independent TD said he had expected that sports events would see their attendances be allowed to expand to 500 people, not decreased.

“There is a public health crisis out there at the moment. It is a very, very serious situation. Sport comes second but at the same time, it plays a very, very big part in people’s lives. I thought they’d increase the attendances from 200 to 500. Every person that enters a club to play a match, every person to enters – we have a list of all the names and contacts.

“It’s not fair. In Louth, we’ve had 2,000 young children that came to our Cul Camps. We were told they could only be in groups of 15 and we had them in groups of 15. We did everything by the book.”

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