Underage athletes should be allowed back on the field as early as this month, according to school principal and sportsman Colm O’Rourke.
Around 350,000 children have gone back to school this morning as the phased plan for schools reopening continues.
The country’s primary school are now fully reopened, while in secondary schools, fifth years are joining their sixth year colleagues, who returned two weeks ago.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, All-Ireland winner Colm O’Rourke said there is no evidence linking on-field sports to COVID-19 transmission and called for underage training to resume.
“I would emphasise that it should be all sports but I think there has to be a proportionate and reasonable response,” he said.
“I think that, unless there is evidence to the contrary – and the Sunday Times article yesterday week seemed to indicate that there is no evidence that there was any case linked to any on-field sporting activity in any sport anywhere around the world – if that is the case, I think we should be trying to get people back – particularly young people.
“I think a lot of people have focused on the sort of elite thing with county football but my main interest would be to see young people getting back out playing all sports again.
“I think it has been quite damaging to them this continued lock-up.”
The Sunday Times reported that not a single COVID-19 cases has been traced back to the actual playing of football, rugby union, rugby league or American football.
It said Detailed tracing of cases in the sports found that the transmission was linked to off-field contact – including meeting rooms, cars and indoor activities.
The issues around collecting people and parents congregating, I think those issues could be addressed and that we should probably get back, on-balance, to having underage training,” said Mr O’Rourke.
He agreed that the reopening of GAA competition in the autumn did lead to an increase in transmission; however, that was linked to celebrations of championship wins and would not be an issue at underage level.
“I think we have learned from that,” he said. “I don’t think we need to go there.
“There is none of that going to be associated with under-age training and I think that should be the first thing.
“I think it would be a reasonable and a proportionate response to start underage training – even if we didn’t have games for the moment.”
Mr O’Rourke, principal at St Patrick’s Classical School in Navan, said warned that there is a “very subdued” mood among the young people returning to school.
“Seeing young fellas at school every day as I am now, and it is great to have our fifth years coming back today, I think the mood is very subdued among young people,” he said.
“We have sort of been forced to put them into this world of devices and computers and screens and things like that and I think we need to wean them off pretty quick because I think there are many issues arising.”
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