'Difficult decisions' - Offaly GAA notice to clubs as Covid-19 fixture crisis looms
Fears for fixtures in the Offaly GAA club calendar are growing after a rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in communities and clubs in the county.
Offaly county board chairman has written to clubs to say that "difficult decisions have had to be made not to defer or postpone a number of games" in the wake of such incidents. A shortening window for fulfilling all fixtures is a major problem, particularly in Offaly where a second Covid-19 lockdown was observed in August, bringing a temporary halt to GAA action.
In a note to clubs on Tuesday, Duignan said: "Over the past few months we have all worked hard to get back up and running after our initial Covid lockdown. It’s been fantastic to see all the activity taking place and to see our championships progressing to the latter stages despite many challenges. All clubs, their players, management and many volunteers deserve huge credit for this.
"Unfortunately in the last week or so we have started to see a few Covid cases emerging in our communities which have impacted on participation in some of our games. It’s important to say that none of these cases are linked to GAA activity but have impacted clubs due to players following general Covid and HSE guidelines.
"Offaly GAA are making every effort to complete our games programme in very difficult circumstances and as a result some difficult decisions have had to be made not to defer or postpone a number of games. While this is hugely regrettable and very disappointing for the clubs affected, we feel we have no other choice. It is important to note that we have already lost an additional three weeks due to our localised lockdown so any wiggle room we might have had has disappeared.
"This has been an unprecedented year for us all and we hope you understand that we are trying to complete the Championships in a very challenging environment which is changing almost daily."
This comes amid controversy surrounding Edenderry GAA with their entire panel in self-isolation awaiting Covid-19 tests and results. A Covid-19 case was diagnosed within the senior panel late last week [Friday] but as the group had only trained outdoors in the preceding week, the HSE deemed the rest of the team casual rather than close contacts. That freed the club to fulfil their senior championship semi-final fixture against Rhode on Saturday evening.
However, the HSE contacted the club again on Sunday having re-evaluated the situation, declaring that the teammates of the positive case were now all deemed close contacts and would have to be tested. The players are now unable to attend work and are following the HSE's isolation advice before being tested and given the all-clear.
This has had the knock-on effect of ending the club's involvement in the U20 county championship as part of the Edenderry/Ballyfore parish amalgamation outfit, St. Patrick's. They were due to play Na Fianna in the quarter-finals this evening but have been forced to concede a walkover due to numbers.
At least nine members of the Edenderry senior panel would have been included in this evening's U20 panel. The situation effectively starves St. Patrick's of half of their panel of 19 players. Efforts have been made to find eligible players in the club above the required age of 17 to play at U20 level but they can't make up the numbers required.
No change has yet been made (as of 5pm) to the status that Na Fianna will receive a walkover and advance to the semi-final stage.