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"The club pitches probably should be open" | Colm O'Neill on GAA facilities being available

Cork's former All-Ireland winning footballer Colm O'Neill isn't comfortable playing GAA until he feels it's safe to do so, but he would like to see club facilities opened.

O'Neill won the Sam Maguire Cup with the Rebel County back in 2010, before retiring two years ago following a spate of serious knee injuries.

The 31-year-old has been lining out in goal for his club Ballyclough, but he told OTB he is happy not to be playing at the moment.

"Currently, with the social distancing in place, I wouldn't be comfortable (with playing), but I suppose if the HSE and NPHET feel that they are in control of the virus and they feel that's it's ok to go back and lift the social distancing without a vaccine, I would. Going on their advice at the moment, when social distancing is in place, I wouldn't.

"At the end of the day, it's hard to put it back on any player, club or inter county, because you don't know their circumstances. They could be living at home with a vulnerable person or someone with underlying conditions. It's hard to ask them to go down to the pitch and train with 20 or 30 other lads and a risk of bringing that virus home."

GAA facilities are closed until July 20th, and O'Neill is hopeful there could be flexibility to ease those restrictions.

"I'd be strong on that one. The club pitches probably should be open. I come from a rural club and the GAA pitch is the heart of every community and I know if our gates are opened, there wouldn't be a huge surge of people coming down. I think that was the worry that if they opened the gates that there would be a huge amount of young kids and adults down there in big clusters. Especially I think in a rural community. I don't see any harm in one or two of the lads pucking a ball or kicking a ball, once they are staying apart. I don't think they are ever going to be going down doing physical contact training. I hope the GAA might look into that, it might be different in urban scenarios, but in rural pitches it don't think it's something that's going to be a problem."

Former All-Star O'Neill also feels opening pitches would be beneficial for the mental well being of a player.

"Even to have something - a target practice - to have something like kicking points in front of the goals or kicking frees. For people's mental health just to go back to the pitch, lace a ball up and down the pitch, open up the shoulders a bit, it will be something hopefully they might look at and something that might change, please God."

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