“I want to see the Championship this year. I want to see our young people getting back playing.”
Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers has explained why Gaelic games have lost their elite status but the League of Ireland is allowed to continue.
On Tuesday, representatives of the government said that GAA is now not able to continue during Level 5 restrictions. This is contrary to earlier messaging.
Chambers stated that the GAA was given an exemption last year as Covid cases weren’t as high as they are now.
While NPHET haven’t been communicating with the GAA specifically, it is believed that the sporting organisation is not seeking to resume in the short-term and is fully supporting the public health measures.
“In the roadmap that was published last autumn, we gave exemptions for professional sports,” Chambers explained on Today with Claire Byrne.
“For example, the League of Ireland is a professional league. That is the distinction.
“But we do want to review the plan and how we live with Covid. That is why sport will be included in that.”
The Dublin West TD thanked the GAA for supporting the national public health efforts and reiterated that both himself and the government would like to see an inter-county championship in 2021.
“To be clear, the government has been very thankful to the GAA and broader sporting organisations for supporting the public health effort,” Chambers continued.
“I want to see the Championship this year. I want to see our young people getting back playing.
“When the GAA Championship was run off, that was done in the context of Level 5 and there was a concession outside of Level 5 framework approved by government.
“Once the Championship finished in December, as you know there were no fixtures scheduled at that point.
“When you look at the context of the number of cases in January, that is why the government is revising the plan. I haven’t any communication from NPHET on this. It is a case of giving a direct answer on a concession for inter-county GAA.”
2021 GAA date
The Fianna Fáil junior Minister isn’t in a position to give a date but the likelihood is that there will be no Championship games until the summer.
“I think the GAA are capable of protecting the safety of players and I commend what happened in 2020 and how they ran out the Championship,” Chambers said.
“But there is no Championship planned for the next two to three weeks for example. This is a case of revising the plan and giving certainty through the year. We want to see young people back playing with their local clubs.
“We aren’t in a position to give a specific date at this point and we’ll try to give that later in the month when we revise the plan.
With the inter-county action pushed back once again, it potentially paves the way for a club-first approach again this year after the success of the 2020 summer.
This would mean a winter inter-county championship once again.
The League of Ireland season is scheduled to kick-off on 19 March.