The GAA didn’t cause the second wave of Covid-19. There were record numbers of cases over the past week in Poland, Russia, the Czech Republic, France, Holland, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. Few county finals have been played in these countries.
o It is to blame that the virus in Ireland is following the same pattern as almost everywhere else in Europe. Not the GAA, no young people at house parties, no students at Spanish Arch, no hipsters on South William Street, no Oliver Bond Flats ravers, no Berlin bartenders, American tourists with MAGA hats, Black Lives Matter protesters, fascist anti-maskers, People who go to their vacation homes, people who went to Cheltenham, golfers, beef barons, politicians, health officials or anyone else who has worked in the scapegoat chair since the pandemic began.
Covid-19 is simply a force of nature.
So the idea is that we could copy “full steam ahead” and let the old folks take their chances, which isn’t really what happens in Sweden anyway. Hopes that either a vaccine or herd immunity is imminent is just wishful thinking. There is no practical way out.
The desire to find someone to blame is perhaps understandable. However, it is more than ridiculous to suggest that some post-game celebrations, stupid as they were, are the main drivers of a rebound that is merely a continent-wide trend.
That hasn’t stopped a sizable cohort from using the GAA as a punching bag over the past week. It’s a terrible shame. Because few organizations have made such a profound impact on Irish society as the GAA. It was a provider of recreation and amusement for young and old, a creator and promoter of the community spirit, an unrivaled joy-generating machine that has done more to improve the nation’s mental and physical health than a hundred government campaigns could ever have.
It was surprising that in some areas it was portrayed as a kind of vicious fifth pillar. And also deeply hurtful to the many people who gave the GAA countless unpaid hours of their lives in the belief that they made their country a better place. The injustice was amazing.
Those who have committed high profile violations of discipline are in the minority. If it weren’t for them, we would know all about it in this great age of self-monitoring. Players deserve better than suddenly being condemned as a pariah. The GAA deserves better.
Instead, these violations have been presented as charges against the GAA as a whole. The decision to participate in the inter-county championships has been portrayed as an act of selfishness by an organization that ignores the greater common good.
Nothing is further from the truth. The GAA’s motivation to hold the championships is altruistic. It actually means losing money by doing it. But it does so because it believes that it will strengthen the morale of the nation.
The Taoiseach talked about the championships in detail not so long ago. The GAA was led to believe that holding the competition was part of their national duty, and the GAA has always taken that duty very seriously.
His reward was not only being traded by maliciously acting critics, but Leo Varadkar’s declaration Thursday that there will be no championships below level 5 will be allowed below level 5.
If that had changed, the GAA and the public would have been informed by Nphet. Instead, Varadkar unilaterally declared a change in airwave policy for his own political gain. That way, he stabbed the GAA in the back. This wasn’t leadership, it was the most glaring kind of opportunism.
The possibility of further betrayal by politicians who believe the attack on the GAA will bring miles means the federation could also cancel the championships. The good is knocked out of this altruistic gesture.
But Croke Park might be better off taking the lead from Nphet. If the championships pose a public health hazard, they should be canceled. If not, there is no reason why you shouldn’t continue. Let the people who know about these things make the call.
It’s been a bad week for the GAA. But it was a much worse week for Ireland. Because if people turn on the country’s most popular sports association in the blink of an eye, it means no one is immune to suddenly becoming a national scapegoat.
Things get toxic and it’s time to scream. If we don’t, this winter will soon go from difficult to unbearable.
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