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Return of intercounty GAA action will ‘raise spirits’

TYRONE senior manager boss Mickey Harte believes that the long-awaited return of intercounty football will have a positive knock-on effect on the mental health of our communities amid the uncertainty and fear surrounding Covid-19.

The GAA suspended all club activity with immediate effect ten days ago, but the conclusion of the national leagues and subsequent All-Ireland championship can proceed under current Irish Government regulations as it is categorised as an “elite sport”.

The Stormont Executive also exempted the GAA from new measures forbidding contact games when it tightened restrictions on Wednesday morning, but fears remain that the All-Ireland Championship will be waylaid if Covid-19 continues to spread.

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Intercounty games are set to be played behind closed doors, but every championship match will be broadcast live and Harte believes the return of intercounty action this weekend is a chink of light in these turbulent times.

“I would say that’s the case, it was a great lift for the people when the club football was on particularly when there were televised games.

“People felt that it was a good thing and if that had been the end of it, it’d be a big anti-climax. I think people would like to watch games from now until Christmas. People are happier when football is on, people missed it when it wasn’t happening.”

The long-standing Tyrone senior manager has also revealed that none of his players have at any stage returned a positive test for Covid-19 as they finalise preparations for Sunday’s
Division One clash against Donegal.

The intercounty season was suspended in mid-March in response to government advice aimed at combating the coronavirus, but the return to playing action has coincided with a surge in cases the length and breadth of Ireland.

Fermanagh GAA have requested a postponement of their upcoming league game against Clare after ten members of their panel tested positive, with a further seven players in self-isolation, but Tyrone have been rather more fortunate on that front.

Harte says they followed all the precautions to the letter before and after they returned to collective training on September 14, and as things stand none of the intercounty panel have been struck by the virus.

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He said, “We didn’t return to the due date and we were just doing everything outside, not doing anything inside.

“When you do everything outside in the open that means you’re taking less risk of spreading the virus, and if anything happens to anybody, it’s just them alone.

“Thankfully we’ve had no positive tests to date, we’ve had people who’ve had to isolate because they might have been in contact with someone in ordinary life, but nobody in our squad has tested positive and hopefully we can keep it that way.”

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