Michael Fennelly, Offaly manager.
OFFALY senior hurlers have been forced to concede a walkover to Kildare in Saturday's Christy Ring Cup opener after a member of their panel tested positive for Covid-19.
In a statement released this evening, the Offaly GAA County Board stated that the player tested positive on Wednesday and had not trained with the squad since October 13. They had believed and hoped that the panel would be classed as casual contacts but the HSE have deemed them as close contacts, meaning that they must restrict their movements for fourteen days until October 27 – making all players who trained that evening ineligible for selection this Saturday.
It is a devastating blow to Offaly and their manager Michael Fennelly. There had been dismay when Offaly were relegated to hurling's third tier last year and winning this competition and getting back into the Joe McDonagh Cup is a big target for the season.
The walkover, however, is not the disaster that it might have been as there is a second chance for first round losers and they play a knockout game on November 7/8.
Intensive discussions had gone on between the Offaly GAA County Board, HSE and Croke Park since news of the positive test and its implications became clear yesterday. Offaly sought a postponement of the Christy Ring C up game but have said they understand why this has not been granted as all championships must be finished in a short time frame.
There had been speculation that Offaly might field their U-20 hurling team in the fixture but this has not happened. Offaly had a comfortable win over Westmeath in the Leinster U-20 Hurling Championship on Wednesday evening but without three key players who are members of the Offaly senior hurling panel – Durrow's Ross Ravenhill and Brian Duignan and Shinrone's Killian Sampson had to withdraw under Covid-19 protocols.
It is a very unfortunate situation for Offaly but they have confirmed that they will be trying to fulfill their next fixture – the players are currently availing of the GAA's rapid testing system but unfortunately, this could not clear them to play in time for Saturday's game.
The full text of the Offaly GAA statement is:
“Offaly GAA regret that it will not be possible for our senior hurlers to fulfil the Christy Ring Cup fixture versus Kildare this Saturday.
“The HSE has deemed almost every member of the Offaly panel as a ‘close contact’ of a player with Covid-19. The player tested positive on Wednesday, October 21, and had not taken part in training with squad since October 13. The remainder of the panel are obliged to restrict their movements for 14 days (until October 27).
“Offaly GAA County Board officers have liaised with GAA officials in Croke Park since this issue arose on Wednesday afternoon. Our preferred option was for a postponement of the game, but we understand that this course of action is not possible as all GAA Championships must be completed in a short timeframe.
“We hope to participate in the second round of the Christy Ring Cup on the weekend of 7th/ 8th November, when the players who are restricting their movements will hopefully be available. They are currently availing of the GAA’s rapid testing facility.
“Offaly GAA wish to stress that we would be prepared to participate in Saturday’s game with a depleted squad. However, it is simply not feasible with over 25 players ruled out.
“We also wish to emphasise that the County Board, team management, players and backroom staff have followed HSE and GAA guidelines in relation to Covid-19 at all times, and had expected that the panel members would have been deemed ‘casual contacts rather than ‘close contacts’ of the one player with Covid-19.
“Finally, Offaly GAA accept that this is short notice for Kildare ahead of Saturday’s fixture, but wish to assure them that since this matter arose on Wednesday afternoon, we have been working tirelessly to avoid this unfortunate situation whereby the game cannot proceed as fixed.”