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'Limit of 200 people allowed attend a GAA match is a joke'

 

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Cavan manager Mickey Graham. Photo: Sportsfile

Cavan manager Mickey Graham. Photo: Sportsfile

Cavan manager Mickey Graham. Photo: Sportsfile

Cavan football manager Mickey Graham insists the current GAA attendance cap of 200 people is a "joke" and wants the Government to increase it.

Graham believes larger venues in most counties can safely house 500 socially-distant fans, and it should be a "no-brainer" to introduce this higher threshold.

House parties, he ventured, are a far more likely source to fuel a coronavirus outbreak. His comments echo the stance taken by Croke Park chiefs after the Government last week decided to delay Phase 4 of the roadmap for easing Covid-19 restrictions.

This meant that instead of GAA attendances of 500 being allowed from last Monday, the 200 limit for all outdoor events remains until August 10. This change was described by GAA president John Horan as a "hammer blow to the organisation" last Friday.

Graham is adamant that the GAA deserves some wiggle room.

"I was at a couple of matches at the weekend, and people are disciplined. They're social distancing. There was nobody on top of each other," he told the Irish Independent.

"This thing of 200 people being allowed in, I think, is a joke.

"The GAA, above all organisations, have been very good during this pandemic. People will go in; they'll keep their distances; they'll find space for themselves. And most grounds, you wouldn't see 500 people in them!

"Most of the Cavan club games are in Kingspan Breffni - the big championship games.

"That holds 24-25,000. Sure, you wouldn't see 500 people in it - you'd do well to count them in it. It just doesn't make any sense."

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The Breffni boss called on the Government to reconsider venues with a capacity of "more than a few thousand" and allow 500 at these locations.

"I think it's a no-brainer to move that up to 500," he continued. "In these circumstances, you know yourself, it's house parties and everything else. It's not at a GAA match.

"And most people abide by the rules … it was great to see at the weekend the way people conducted themselves at the matches. At most championship games you're not going to get more than 500 anyway. Maybe a big quarter-final you will, but most of them (attract) three, four, five hundred and I think county boards would be happy with that."

Citing the financial imperative for both county boards and clubs, he concluded: "They're all struggling and they need every bit of support they can get."

Looking ahead to the revamped inter-county season, starting in mid-October with the last two rounds of the Allianz Football League before Cavan face Monaghan a week later in an Ulster SFC preliminary round local derby, Graham remains cautious about the ongoing threat posed by Covid-19.

Worried

"You'd have to be worried a wee bit," he admitted. "You just have to play it week by week. I just hope that the clubs can get a clear run at it and get their championships played.

"You're coming into a time of year, into winter football, and obviously 'flu season and everything else is going to add extra pressure to it.

"But look it, we have to be optimistic and hopefully it will go ahead," he added. "At the end of the day people's health is the most important thing. Football will always be there as well. The people turning up at club games now and challenge matches for the last number of weeks are just grateful to get back out.

"And it just shows what sport does. It definitely gives that feel-good factor and, come the depths of winter, you'd be hoping that the inter-county game can keep people occupied and give them something to look forward to."


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