Bad news for Irish sport with...


Bad news for Irish sport with mass gatherings in 2020 'highly unlikely'

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It looks increasingly unlikely that sport in Ireland will return to normal this year following comments made by Minister for Health Simon Harris.

The minister has praised Irish sports governing bodies for taking sensible measures as the country battles to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

All governing bodies including the big three; GAA, the FAI, the IRFU, called a halt to action under their control last month in a bid to help halt the spread of COVID-19.

On Saturday, the GAA President John Horan reiterated the association's stance that there will be no rush back to action and that they will continue to be guided by public health advice.

Horan is putting safety of the athletes first but spoke of the lack of appetite for a behind-closed-doors senior championship in both hurling and football.

"I think even players have come out and said that playing a game with no atmosphere where you can hear the strike of a sliotar or the kick of a ball in an empty stadium is no great enjoyment.

“But, look, if that was to be taken on board at a later stage, we would take it on board."

However today's comments from Harris in an interview with the Sunday Independent would appear to dash any hopes of championship games being played at packed out stadiums.

"I think some of the decisions taken by the GAA seem very sensible," he said.

"It's highly unlikely we're going to be seeing very large kind of mass gatherings this year.

"Could you get to a point where you can't have massive GAA matches, but you could have local kids having a kickabout safely, that's the sort of space that we're in, that we need to work our way through."

Soccer action is on hold until at least 5 May, but the FAI have stated their hope of resuming the men's and women's domestic leagues in June.

The IRFU have much to consider with the 2020 Six Nations campaign to be completed and a summer to of Australia to be possibly rescheduled.

With regard to the provincial sides, the Guinness Pro14 campaign is in limbo while Leinster and Ulster have to play their Heineken Champions Cup quarter-finals.

Speaking to OTBAM last week, Professor Luke O’Neill from Trinity College's School of Biochemistry and Immunology predicted that organised sports will return to Ireland during the summer months.

He believes that, “Once we see things turn,” and the spread of the virus slows or stops, bringing sports back should be high on the list of priorities.

O'Neill did also concede that he could not see any mass gatherings taking place until there is a vaccine to kill COVID-19.

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