WATCH: Ard Stiúrthóir Tom Ryan gives an update on the GAA’s roadmap to return
By John Harrington
GAA.ie: Tom there was a meeting last night of the GAA’s Advisory Group. Can you tell us a little bit about the group and the progress that has been made.
Tom Ryan: That’s right, John, yeah. It was the second or third meeting if I’m not mistaken. It’s a group chaired by Shay Bannon and it’s comprised of a lot of very eminent people from the sphere of the medical world and from health and safety and so on. They’re the people who will guide the Association as we look towards how we can get back up and running, back on the training pitch and back playing matches. It’s very important for us to have people of that expertise available to us and we’re very grateful to them because our key undertaking is running football and hurling. There are some very important decisions ahead for us and it’s not our daily sphere and we need assistance. It’s very, very important we embark upon it in the right way. It’s very, very important we’re cognisant all the time of the health of our members and our patrons and our spectators, that’s the over-riding concern in all of this. That group is going to guide us through that process and that group is going to set out a roadmap for us so that when the time is right and the environment is correct we can make sure the GAA resumes its pre-eminent place in Irish sport and Irish society.
GAA.ie: I presume the use of the GAA’s walking tracks, pitches, and facilities has been part of those discussions?
Tom Ryan: Well, you know yourself, John, GAA clubs are part of communities everywhere all around the country so in almost every case they’re more than just football and hurling pitches. The committee rooms are used by all manner of organisations and friends of the Association. Pitches are used for people for all manner of things, whether it be going for a walk or just going for a puck around or whatever. That’s important. And it’s important that we get back to using our facilities for those purposes as well. But it has to be done in a controlled way. And it has to be done in a safe way. The over-riding thing all the time is safety. That little group is going to help us with regard to how we might tackle that and how we might embark upon that. That very definitely will be part of the little roadmap that we’ll map out for the Association and for clubs over the course of the next few weeks.
GAA.ie: Is it still hoped that the Cúl Camps will go ahead?
Tom Ryan: Well, personally, yes, I hope so. It is fair to say and it’s only honest to say that we are working on contingency plans around them as well because, as you know, we’re working in a very uncertain environment at the moment so I can’t guarantee anything and I can’t say here and now that, yes, they are going to happen. But if you saw the sheer amount of work and energy that the people in charge with putting them together are putting in to literally give us a chance of staging them, it’s humbling and it’s really impressive. So if we get a chance at all, and if the authorities can tell us that it is safe for us to go ahead with them we will be ready to do them. You know yourself, quite apart from the senior championships and so on, the Cúl Camps are a huge element of everybody’s summer in Ireland. So it would be lovely to think that we could actually get them undertaken. We’ll make every effort to make sure we can, but it’s only honest to say we’re working on a few little contingency plans as well just in case.
GAA.ie: We’re here in Croke Park where we’d obviously love to be watching matches but, in the absence, at least it’s being used for a very good purpose as a COVID-19 Community Testing Centre?
Tom Ryan: That’s right, you can see the cars winding their way in behind you as we’re chatting. I can’t honestly remember how long it is since the testing regime was set up. My last day in here working was, I think, the third week of March and I think the testing was set up very shortly after that or may even have been under way at that stage. I’ve only been back here once in the mean-time and it’s lovely to be back here today but it’s kind of surreal and strange circumstances. But it is nice to think that, not just here, but everywhere around the country, John, you’ve seen it yourself, clubs up and down the length and breadth of the country have been playing a huge part in terms of the national effort at overcoming the current crisis that we’re all in.
GAA.ie: Have the past few weeks underlined that the GAA is as much a community organisation as a sporting one?
Tom Ryan: Well, isn’t it funny, I think at last count we tried to assess it and I think it’s 86 per cent of GAA clubs are involved in all manner of things in terms of helping out people in their locality, whether that be on a formal or informal basis. It just underlines the fact that football and hurling is a key element of what all those clubs do, but it’s not everything. You could almost argue that it’s not the most important thing. And we’re really seeing the value of that at the moment.