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Local derby always has ‘an edge’

Sport

RAISING CONCERNS Alan Dillon is looking for answers from the GAA in relation to their plans for the rapid testing for Covid-19 of inter-county players.

Interview
Ger Flanagan

FORMER Mayo captain Alan Dillon feels the credibility of the inter-county championship will be severely impacted if a team loses a number of players due to a Covid-19 outbreak and he has called on the GAA to introduce a rapid testing regime to ensure it doesn’t happen.
Deputy Dillon, who is the Fine Gael spokesperson for Tourism and Sport, told The Mayo News yesterday (Monday) that he has written to Feargal McGill (GAA Director of Player, Club and Games Administration) requesting details about the strategy for introducing rapid testing for inter-county squads ahead of the restart of the National Leagues next weekend.
Dillon explained that there was communication from the GAA in September about a procurement for rapid-testing for inter-county teams to be sent to tender, but that he has not received an update.
He also believes that inter-county squads should have their own Covid testing protocol.
“The big issue I have is on testing,” said the Ballintubber native. “For instance, if Mayo, or any other high profile team like Dublin, Kerry, Cork, get to an All-Ireland semi-final, and you have the possibility of a suspected case, the credibility of the competition will be called into question if, say, you are not able to field a number of players who may have tested negative, but are currently self-isolating.
“And that is a danger for the championship this year. Even though we’re having one, it needs to be well-managed. Players need to be more responsible for what they do off the field because I think the biggest advantage of having it is that it will certainly shorten the winter months for many supporters.
“But for the overall winners, you want to have the best teams with their best players involved. And if there is a suspected case, we can act in a quick fashion and get the test back to ensure that it doesn’t have any further impact on the remainder of the squad.”
Dillon raised issues with the lack of communication from the GAA on a rapid testing strategy, despite them receiving €15 million in funding from the Government to ensure that the GAA championships went ahead.
He also feels that the health questionnaires and temperature checks currently being utilised by the GAA is not fit for purpose for elite sport.
He says it is ‘imperative’ that resources are put in place by Croke Park for counties to have access to a rapid testing process, particularly with inter-county teams from counties with much higher numbers of Covid cases travelling from border areas over the coming weeks.
“I have been speaking to a number of inter-county players recently and it has been worrying them too,” he said. “This is something that they are acutely aware of and they feel it is something that needs attention.
“I’m sure everyone understands at this stage that living with Covid is very difficult and we’re all trying to do our best. But now there’s the added risk of players who have a day job, have a family and extended family, or parents who or elderly or may have underlying health conditions.
“The players are playing a game they love, but now has the added risk of competing in a championship where they’re meeting and congregating with players from all over the county, and further afield, not just from their own community, which brings its own risk.
“So we need the GAA to back them up with a robust testing system that will protect the players, officials and public health in general.”

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