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"One year, it's not going to be the end of the world if it helps saves lives" | Mark McHugh on being against a return to play

Donegal's former All-Ireland winning footballer Mark McHugh has spoken frankly about why he's against a return to play, why he doesn't agree with the concept of behind closed doors games and why sporting competitiveness is not suited to the COVID-19 environment.

In an exclusive conversation with OTB, the Kilcar player says he contributed to the Club Players' Association survey released this week about whether there would be a comfort level about returning to the Gaelic Games pitch before a vaccine is found.

"I was one of the 22 percent against it (returning to play). I just felt there's too many factors involved with going back to play, especially club football. The testing is not going to be up to standard. There's no point saying it will, there's not going to be people tested every week. People have to go back to their families, people have to go back to their jobs on a Monday. It's alright when we look across to America, and see teams are being isolated in hotels, they are being tested every day or every second day. After a game they are coming back to the same hotels. It's not going to happen in the GAA, whether club or county.

McHugh says an atmosphere where there is contact sport during a pandemic carries too many risks.

"I think it was 27 percent of that survey lives with a person over the age of 70. I have a new baby, five weeks ago. I still wouldn't want my partner in a position that I'm coming back from a football game, that I'm in a dressing room with 30 players plus management drinking water bottles. If you are in the middle of a summer's day, you are not looking to your own water bottle. You are looking for the closest water bottle beside you. I just think there's far too many factors."

McHugh added with candour that he doesn't imagine the competitiveness of being a GAA player lends itself to playing football during a pandemic.

"I know (to say) this is probably very morally and ethically wrong. We're built on GAA and we live by GAA. Say the club championship in Donegal here starts, and we are lucky enough, Kilcar, to be in a county final on the Sunday. On the Wednesday evening, I start feeling the symptoms of COVID-19. Am I going to tell anybody? And my honest opinion now is, I probably wouldn't, because firstly I want to play. I really really want to play. Secondly, I'd not want to put my team in jeopardy of not winning a county title, because if I have the symptoms, that means maybe they might have it, which means they'll be kicked out. So, unless the Government come in with guidelines, or there's some sort of thing to say, if we start this competition, that we can finish it, I think there's too many factors. In the scheme of things, one year (without activity), it's not a whole lot. We've already six months done. Look at the Olympics, they've been training for four years to get to that point. Now that's off. I just think for the safety of everybody, it would probably be the best option just to draw a line through 2020."

After placing his hands on the Sam Maguire Cup in front of 82,300 supporters in 2012, Mark McHugh doesn't feel that behind closed doors matches would suit the ethos of Gaelic Games.

"It's not part of the GAA. The GAA is built on volunteers, people going to watch the games. It's alright when there's millions and millions of euro and dollars for big professional sports, but that's not what the GAA is about. To deprive people of going to watch a club championship match, it's not the same thing. There would be no real atmosphere. I think if we end up doing that, it's pointing that the GAA has maybe turned into just wanting this money. That's not what it's about in my opinion, it's wanting to have your kids, having your family going to watch those games.  (GAA President) John Horan came out to be fair to him and he was clear the last day and I think it was needed."

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