Louth GAA’s upcoming club championship matches are set to be all-ticket affairs unless the government dramatically eases restrictions on attendance numbers. (Pic: Arthur Kinahan)
Louth GAA’s upcoming club championship matches are set to be all-ticket affairs unless the government dramatically eases restrictions on attendance numbers.
County chairman Peter Fitzpatrick has backed GAA President John Horan’s call for the country’s leadership to backtrack on the delayed increase on permitted outdoor gatherings from 200 to 500 until at least August 10.
And Fitzpatrick, an Independent TD, has been in touch with Taoiseach Micheál Martin to air his views on the hold up, which will, as of this moment, limit the crowds for the opening two rounds of the Louth adult football leagues, scheduled for August 2 and 9.
“I heard John Horan on national radio pleading for a special dispensation for the GAA,” Fitzpatrick told The Democrat.
“He says with the space that’s around most GAA pitches, 200 is absolutely wrong. When you take in referees and players, etc, you’re only talking about roughly 120 spectators. He’s been on to the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste and so have I to see if we can get something done in the next few days.
“The big plus we have is that it’s an outdoor event. We need to look at the mental health aspect; people just need to get out in the open air. You take the facilities we have at every club in County Louth, not just one club, we’ve the facilities to cater for a lot more than 200 and we’re pushing to get it increased to up as far as 500.
“I feel confident that we’ll get it increased over the next number of days but we’ll have to sit down with the clubs on Wednesday night and look for some kind of directives from Croke Park.
“Ultimately, the bottom line is that if it’s not going to change until August 10, we’ll be making sure that the gates are stewarded and that the maximum of 200 people law is upheld; we won’t deviate from the government restrictions and if it means putting extra stewards into games, so be it.
“But if we don’t increase the attendance allowance from 200 to 500, I’m not going to say the championship will be a waste, but the amount of money it’s going to cost us to hold the games… we’re going to really have a proper look at it.”
The possibility of ticketing club championship football, which starts on the weekend of August 14-16, is one Fitzpatrick is optimistic about avoiding, although if it has to be the case, he says the County Board will be negotiating with clubs to ensure their fair distribution.
“We’re trying to do it the right way to ensure that the maximum number of people can get in the gate. We’re hoping by the time the championship comes around that the numbers allowed may be increased.
“I think it’s an awful lot safer with the open spaces for people to meet up at a GAA pitch, while keeping their distance, than anywhere else. Most venues would hold a couple of thousand.”
Fitzpatrick is hopeful of a government announcement on the crowding issue ahead of Wednesday night’s meeting of the executive and delegates in Darver.