Clubs vote against mandatory temperature testing proposals

An attempt to introduce mandatory temperature testing at Westmeath GAA grounds as an “extra layer of security” against a second wave of Covid-19 has been defeated by clubs.

Westmeath county board chairman Billy Foley (pictured above) proposed the measure at last night’s meeting of the board, in the context of the GAA’s prioritising of community safety amid a return to games.

Mr Foley said that it was “essential” that every club in Westmeath appoints a Covid officer and supervisor who will manage Westmeath GAA’s response at club level.

He proposed that a system of mandatory temperature testing be introduced, and that each club must, as a minimum, invest in a special “temperature testing sensor”.

“These devices cost around €50, and in the circumstances I don’t think that will be too expensive for clubs,” said the chairman.

Answering a query from Garrycastle delegate Harry Mooney, Mr Foley said that the device would allow the temperature of each person to be checked as they go into a ground.

Mr Mooney, however, questioned the process. He said lots of people would be using the same thermometer, and furthermore, huge time management planning would be required to make sure games start on time.

The chairman responded that testing would be a “rapid process” and that club Covid supervisors would be trained to handle same.

Vinny Cox (Rosemount delegate) also questioned the wisdom of the move. He said that he had read Croke Park guidelines, and that Headquarters recommended that clubs do not invest in thermometer kits. He understood that the job of a Covid supervisor was to record the health status of people coming to a ground, and that the onus was on players to take their own temperature before coming to a game.

Mr Foley replied that while that was “all wonderful in theory”, it was reasonable to assume that not everyone would abide by this requirement.

Sean Kenny (Tubberclair) said that temperature testing would be a substantial amount of work for a club Covid supervisor. He stated that there was evidence of huge asymptomatic transmission of the virus, where people could be carriers without having a temperature or a cough.

Joe Potter (Lough Lene Gaels) and Johnny Penrose (Ballynacargy) also dissented from the chairman’s proposal. Cllr Penrose said that testing heaped a lot of responsibility on clubs and he was concerned they may become targets for “blame” if it didn’t work out. He added that the temperature testing sensors mentioned by the chairman were closer to €80 in price.

Mr Foley received some support from the St Brigid’s and Brownstown clubs, and explained his position further.

Asked by Rosemount’s Jimmy Whelan where his “medical advice” was coming from, the chairman replied that he was following his own. He said that he did not think Croke Park’s guidelines were sufficient, and that Westmeath GAA, which runs its own championships, had a responsibility to go a step further to ensure community safety.

Mr Foley added that hours before the meeting, he learned of a situation where a player with a Westmeath club had been tested because a new Covid-19 case was recorded at his workplace.

“If that player had left work and gone to training with his club tonight, what’s the scenario then?” he said.

The chairman’s motion was proposed by Des Maguire (Mullingar Shamrocks) and seconded by Paddy Wallace (Multyfarnham), with Johnny Penrose (Ballynacargy) and Harry Mooney (Garrycastle) proposing that Croke Park guidelines be adhered to.

Delegates voted 35-18 to reject the chairman’s motion and to stick with Croke Park’s advice.

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