Munster Council CEO Kieran Leddy says the response from GAA clubs around the province and the country has been “fantastic” but has also warned that the fallout from the pandemic may take years to resolve.
“The Munster Council’s like everyone else at present,” said Leddy.
“We’re like any other county board or Croke Park — we’re following the Government’s advice and waiting to see when the restrictions are lifted“The fact that the Government gave those directions has been a help, because they’re being followed closely by the GAA: When the directive came from Croke Park on shutting down activities it was followed immediately.
“Those directives will dictate whatever activity can take place. That’s all any of us can do at the moment, just wait and see.”
Last week GAA director-general Tom Ryan warned of a possible €60m hole in the organisation’s finances if there is no Championship this year. Leddy acknowledged the potential for trouble down the road.
“The key thing for the moment is the health of the nation. That’s the big thing, and the issue of finance is a bridge we’ll have to cross down the road.
“If our Championship activities are curtailed then we’ll see a significant decline in income, but I’m told this is a once in a 100 years phenomenon, so I think we’ll have to look at dealing with the fallout from this over a number of years rather than dealing with the entirety of the fallout in one year. We’ve got to look over a five- or maybe a 10-year period.
“Every organisation will have its own approach, obviously — the GAA may be an organisation that can look at the situation in this way, and we’ll have to look at it like this — it’s a situation that’s unprecedented in real terms, it’s over a century since the county faced something on a similar scale, so our response may be on similar lines.
“But while we have to take a long-term view on that, the health of the nation is what’s important right now, and ensuring that as few people as possible are lost.”
The maintenance of county grounds referred to is crucial, he adds: “ Clubs and counties have been advised that they can maintain their pitches, and that has to happen.
“The worst thing to do is to close the gate on a county ground and do absolutely no work for a month, two months, three months, whatever it is.
“Then you’re really restricted in what you can do when the time comes to play games. The pitches have to be maintained as well as possible over the next couple of months, but that’s as much as can be done.
“But that applies to centres of excellence as well, there’s essential ongoing maintenance that has to be done there also. That work is ongoing, but apart from that there’s little or no activity. Teams, development squads, all of that has ground to a halt.”
“‘Necessary’ is the word. The GAA has a presence in every community, and where there are people who can’t venture outside their homes at present, for whatever reason, clubs are stepping up to the mark — in association with other organisations like county councils and so on.
“There’s a very effective network now in many parts of the country where, if there’s a person who’s self-isolating, or who just can’t leave their house, to get groceries or medicine or whatever, then GAA clubs are helping them.
“And it’s great to see GAA units all over the country stepping up like that, certainly. I think everyone understands the situation we’re in, and that it’s a matter of saving lives. People have responded very well.
“As for players and teams, they’re all very well served now by the technology in terms of keeping up their own fitness, so there’s a lot of work that can be done.
“And there are plenty of online coaching courses and classes that are helping people through this period, to stay in contact with each other.
In terms of specific advice for clubs, communication is the key message.
“For clubs the important thing at the moment is people — staying in contact with each other and keeping the lines of communication open between everyone, players and members alike, helping each other through the situation.
“That might consist of players encouraging each other to continue training even though it’s tough in isolation, keeping an eye on elderly club members or neighbours, all of that, but maintaining communication is vital.
“And hopefully we’ll get back to some level of activity sooner rather than later, and whatever level that activity is.”
In the meantime, Leddy is happy with the GAA’s contribution to the fight against the virus.
“The GAA has always been built on community spirit and volunteering, and it’s great to see those aspects of the organisation coming to the fore so strongly in recent weeks.
“And I’m sure that’ll continue when the worst of this has passed. Even when the lockdown is lifted or eased people may still need help with various things, and hopefully the help being given now will continue.
“It’s good to see the clubs rowing in. That’s obviously being helped by the technology and the ease with which messages and co-operation can be organised, but GAA clubs have always been embedded in the community anyway which facilitates the efforts being made.
“I’m sure everyone reading this has been at a funeral in the country and usually it’s the local GAA club which has members out in high-vis jackets to help with car parking and so on.
“That’s been happening for a long time and it’s good to see that kind of support is available across the country now.
“In general the level of community spirit being shown around the country is uplifting to see. If there’s any upside to this terrible time, then that may be it.”