By JOHN HUDSON
AHEAD of the easing of restrictions for sport on Monday April 26 Dr
Alan Byrne the highly respected FAI Medical Director has advised clubs
to continue to make sure they strictly adhere to all the directives
from the Government, Health Authorities and FAI.
From that date the long-awaited return of all under 18 players tonon
contact training in pods of 15 will be permitted.
Dr Byrne was speaking at the second in a series of FAI organised
Webinars to update over 200 Grassroots Football representatives with
the latest information on the return of football at all levels
throughout the country.
The Medical Director along with FAI CEO Jonathan Hill, Ger McDermott
(FAI Head of Grassroots), Gerry Perry (FAI National Referees
Committee) and FAI President Gerry McAnaney spoke for nearly two
hours, taking questions along the way.
The clear message from Dr Byrne was a positive if cautious one.
“We have been leaders in the way we have managed Covid. Over 4,000
tests were conducted covering 26 games in 19 countries played by all
our international sides and the positive rate was as low as 0.07%.
“I believe we can go into contact training quickly, it’s not that far
away. On the pitch it is safe but it’s getting to and from training or
games that is so important. No carpooling is advised and indoor
settings like changing rooms are out too as they pose a high risk.
“We must continue with the basics like wearing face masks, sanitising
and particularly for parents and guardians who may have to transport
their son or daughter to training venues they should not congregate in
groups at the ground when training is in progress.
“It’s also important to note that while restrictions are in place for
travel outside your county it won’t be possible for players to travel
to train in another county.
“We want the Government to look at what we are doing and say we have a
safe sport.” added Dr Byrne.
Byrne also addressed the anomaly that exists with the return to
training for the League of Ireland under 19 sides and with other sides
in leagues who have under 19 divisions.
While most under 19 squads would have a mix of players who are under
18 and some over 18, the Government directive only allows under 18s
to return to training, the clubs are anxious to get clarification.
Byrne explained the situation saying
“Unfortunately at the moment only under 18 players can train, however
we will be meeting with the government next week and we’ll certainly
raise this anomaly ,”
Jonathan Hill reiterated Dr Byrne’s remarks and also gave brief
details of a recent meeting he had with Minister Jack Chambers.
“Football is one of the safest sports in Ireland, in fact we had no
positive cases associated with our Summer Camps. So we must keep it
“I will continue to press the government to allow football at all
levels back. I met with Minister Chambers last Friday and also asked
for an increase in the financial support for our grassroots clubs.”
Head of Grassroots Ger McDermott along with Communications Director
Cathal Dervan are preparing a document indicating a plan for the full
return of football at all levels as soon as possible. This will then
be presented to the government for their views.