Kerry club chairmen say pitches should have opened earlier

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By John Fogarty

Two Kerry club chairmen believe GAA pitches could have been opened earlier than yesterday.

After 91 days, the gates of club grounds across the country were unlocked for non-contact training for players over minor age.

From Saturday, minors and those younger can do the same before club footballers and hurlers of all ages resume contact training on Monday.

The fathers of half of Kerry’s forward line, David Clifford, Paul Geaney and Seán O’Shea, are chairmen of their respective clubs and Dingle chair Paul Geaney senior feels the GAA delayed too long in permitting members to use their own playing pitches.

“It’s about time. It was ridiculous that our players have been locked out for this amount of time. You’d often have seen families in three and fours going up to the field and they couldn’t go up and kick a bit of ball.

“Purely from a physical health of view for young fellas, they could have done it. I didn’t see the big problem in allowing them in. It’s not that they were going to catch it from catching a ball.”

Kenmare Shamrocks senior team returned to the field for non-contact training yesterday evening. Chairman Seán O’Shea senior reckons it would have been more appropriate to reopen pitches at the beginning of phase two when the Government allowed for limited numbers to train.

“When the Government allowed 15 people to train together outdoors, that was the time to go back to GAA grounds because then you had guys trying to do their things in different places and in smaller groups. There was no insurance in place so clubs had to be extra cautious to make sure people weren’t using the pitches.”

O’Shea was delighted with the level of interest across the club in using Shamrocks’ pitch for contact training from Monday.

“We put out a sheet on Monday morning for a staggered booking system for the pitch so we’re leaving half an hour between each session to allow people come and go and not to overlap. That filled up within an hour or two. It shows you how keen all the age groups are to get back, from U8 all the way up to senior. We have a senior pitch and a juvenile pitch and we’re trying to keep one age group at one time on the grounds at the moment for safety reasons.”

The stress of organising Cúl Camps was raised by other club chairpersons contacted by the Irish Examiner with one understanding why some clubs have taken to cancelling their events this year.

“We’re going ahead with ours,” says one chair. “But it’s going to be a headache making sure everything is done right.”

With the sharing of water bottles prohibited as per the recommendation from the GAA’s Covid-19 advisory group, O’Shea can also see water breaks having to be implemented to ensure everyone gets the opportunity to hydrate. The restrictions make the previous role of the maor uisce almost impossible to carry out, he argues.

“Water breaks or maybe like they have in American football disposable paper cups with a container of water. Trying to have 30 bottles with 30 different names is going to be difficult. Hurlers might find it easier with their spare hurleys on the sideline but for footballers it’s going to be completely new.”

O’Shea would like to see grants issued to clubs from county, provincial or national level towards offsetting the cost of making their facilities as safe as possible.

“Hopefully, clubs will receive something because there is a fair financial burden on the clubs to get all the signage, sanitisers and handwashing facilities in place.

“We put two sinks outside. There is a nice extra cost to get open. The unavailability of the buildings for showers and whatever is the only other issue to get over right now. “

Geaney, who along with Dingle’s fields committee chairman took to cutting the club’s grass during the lockdown, also reopens his pub on Monday for the first time since before St Patrick’s Day weekend.

“We’ll be opening 10am on Monday for breakfast. We’re doing meals the whole day through. We have put some booths into the front of the pub too and done some work as well to the smoking area to make sure we’re compliant.

“We are a business and we want to get that going again but just to be open would give us some sort of normality.”

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