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Government cites health environment, not breaches, as rationale for GAA lockdown

The Government has said last year's inter-county hurling and football championships were completed as a concession and that the current health environment is 'very different' - precluding any GAA training or matches under Level 5 restrictions. 

Yesterday it was confirmed that there will be no GAA training or matches permitted until at least Easter, throwing the 2021 fixture calendar into a state of flux.

It's not been stated clearly that the amateur status and community-based aspect of the GAA was the reasoning behind the Government's decision not to make a further exemption for the Association, but a Government source has strongly denied breaches of social distancing after county finals last year played a part in their call to leave the GAA off the list for now. Nor is the gathering of Cork footballers on Youghal beach last month believed to have been a factor.

Only professional, elite sports, horse racing, greyhound racing and approved equestrian events are permitted behind closed doors under Level 5 at this time.

A spokesperson for the Department of Sport told OTB Sports that:

"The current Level 5 restrictions do not provide for inter-county Gaelic Games. The GAA championships were permitted to be completed last year at a time when the prevalence of the virus was much lower. The concession to complete the Championship outside the framework of the Living with Covid Roadmap in the context of Level 5 in October/November ended with the completion of the Championships.

"We are now at Level 5 restrictions and in a very different position in terms of the number and transmissibility of Covid-19 cases, hospitalisations, and deaths. In introducing restrictions to combat the very dangerous position we were in at the end of December, full level 5 restrictions were introduced and no exemption for inter-county Gaelic Games was made.

"No decisions have yet been made by the Government on the restrictions that will apply after 5th March.  As the Taoiseach set out this morning, the Government will examine the Roadmap in the coming weeks and the Government will be taking a cautious approach."

GAA Director of Communications Alan Milton told Newstalk Breakfast he wasn't particularly surprised by the Government's decision.

"A lot of people may have presumed that the exemption we had received last winter had automatically carried over, and while we were operating on that basis ourselves, it doesn't come as any real surprise because we were always going to have to go back into negotiations or discussions with the health authorities and with the Government to see if they were happy for us to return."

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