The lead story as published in Waterford News & Star edition 13th October 2020
MAYOR of Waterford, Fine Gael’s Cllr Damien Geoghegan has become embroiled in the controversy surrounding a player, who was awaiting a test result for Covid 19 when he participated in the County Intermediate Final in Walsh Park on October 3. While Mayor Geoghegan initially denied he was Dungarvan GAA Club’s Covid Officer, on Thursday last he finally confirmed to the Waterford News & Star that he was the Covid supervisor of Dungarvan GAA Club’s County Intermediate team.
Cllr Geoghegan said that his role as the Team Covid Supervisor didn’t involve anything other than maintaining a record of attendance and ensuring equipment and touch point areas are properly cleaned. This is despite the GAA’s own guidelines clearly stating in its description of a Covid Supervisor’s role in relation to players, that “a health declaration form must be completed before every training session, reconfirming that a participant’s health status has not changed.” This process was implemented by the GAA in June.
After Dungarvan won the County Intermediate Final in Walsh Park in Waterford city on Saturday, October 3, it emerged the next day that a player on the team had tested positive for Covid 19. It is understood that the team member had been tested for Covid 19, then played in the match on Saturday and subsequently received the positive Covid 19 result.
Dungarvan GAA Club issued a statement on Monday, October 5, saying there had been “errors made by the Club in the interpretation of the Covid 19 guidelines”. The Club wished to “sincerely apologise” for its mishandling of the situation.
On Wednesday, the County Board issued a statement announcing there would be an investigation into the matter. In the meantime, all club activities have been suspended.
Asked whether his role as Covid supervisor should entail keeping in touch with players about whether they had symptoms or needed a Covid test, Cllr Geoghegan said he would, “if a person was to tell me – but they didn’t.”
When the Waterford News & Star put to him that the role of ‘Covid Supervisor’ involves a health declaration form being completed by players and asked about this in relation to the positive case that emerged after the County Intermediate Final on October 3, Cllr Geoghegan said, “each player has to do it at the start of the season” but offered no other comment.
Cllr Geoghegan told the Waterford News & Star that he was not aware the Dungarvan GAA Club County Intermediate team player had any symptoms or that he had gone for a test in advance of the match.
Cllr Geoghegan said he believed the test was done before the day of the match and that he was only informed of this when the positive result came back, the day after the match.
Call for Mayor to step aside
The Sinn Féin team on Waterford City and County Council have called for the Mayor to step aside until the issue has been resolved.
The Sinn Féin councillors wrote to Council Chief Executive Michael Walsh on Monday, October 12, requesting that he establish the facts regarding what role, if any, the Mayor had in a misinterpretation of Covid regulations.
They claimed the Mayor’s credibility was “being damaged” and formally requested a Council investigation into the matter to establish whether or not the Mayor breached the Code of Conduct for Councillors.
Mayor Geoghegan was contacted by a Waterford News & Star journalist when news of the positive case within the team emerged, and again the following week. Both times Cllr Geoghegan said that he was not the Dungarvan GAA Club’s Covid Officer but did not clarify that he fulfilled another Covid supervision role within the club.
A number of days later, Cllr Geoghegan confirmed to the Waterford News & Star that there are other Covid roles within the club separate to the overall Club Covid Officer, and that he was Team Covid Supervisor.
According to the GAA Covid Supervisor Role overview, all Covid supervisors must complete the Gaelic Games Return to training module on the GAA eLearning website and fill out a health questionnaire before returning to training.
Following the training and health declaration, Covid Supervisors are expected to ensure each participant declares their health status hasn’t changed prior to each time they participate in training, and to preclude team members from playing if they display any symptoms of Covid-19.
In addition, as outlined by Cllr Geoghegan, the Covid Supervisor should disinfect touch point areas and maintain a record of attendance in the event contact tracing is required.