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Was Covid-19 in schools before Christmas?

GPO Johnny Magee ponders when the virus hit Ireland due to the unusually high number of absences in schools during November and December

Coach and former Dublin star Johnny Magee wonders if Covid-19 was in Ireland before Christmas due to the unusually high number of absences in schools during November and December.

BY SHANE STAPLETON
Former Dublin star and Games Promotion Officer Johnny Magee feels that the Coronavirus was already in the community before Christmas.

The Kilmacud Crokes man works with the Geraldines P Moran club in Cabinteely and recalls an unusually high number of children being out sick during November and December.

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He spoke with teachers and other GPOs (Games Promotion Officers) during that time, who also noted a high number of absentees. 

The first confirmed case of Covid-19 in Ireland was announced by the National Public Health Emergency Team on February 29, with the second on March 3.

On December 31, China alerted the World Health Organisation about several cases of an unusual pneumonia in Wuhan – which later became known as Covid-19.

Four day before that, on December 27, a 43-year-old man in France went to the emergency department after several days of feeling ill. 

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After initially being declared a pulmonary infection, his sample was re-tested in May and the patient learned that he had actually been infected with the Coronavirus.

“I would have no problem going back to coaching,” says Magee.

“My own opinion, and speaking with others before Christmas in November and December coaching kids in schools, a couple of teachers said they never had it where 15 kids in a class of 30 were out sick at any one time. 

“That was in a couple of schools. Then speaking to other GPOs, it was happening in a lot of schools across the country and country — in November and December, they had never seen children out so much at one time. 

“Was it in the community before Christmas? I reckon it was, but that’s just my own opinion. I’m not a health expert or a doctor, it’s just how I felt.”

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The GAA’s ‘Return to Play’ roadmap will be agreed upon by the Covid-19 Advisory Group and it is hoped to be ratified and announced in the coming days.

Meanwhile, Magee’s former Dublin teammate, Dessie Farrell, has had an unusual start to life as senior manager of the capital.

His maiden league campaign was interrupted by the pandemic, with just five of the seven regulation rounds of the NFL campaign completed.

Following two wins, two draws and a single loss, it is difficult to say exactly where the five-in-a-row champions are at in life post-Jim Gavin.

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A new man taking his first steps as a senior boss at the top level, and going into a dressing-room full of players who are experienced winners, is a tough spot to be in.

“You could say it’s a poisoned chalice,” says Magee, a former inter-county boss with Wicklow.

“There’s a lot of pressure in terms of getting lads to think of your philosophy and what you’re about.

“But when there has been so much success, it’s very hard to sell it and say ‘this is what’s required to get you to that level’,” Magee adds.

“For Dessie, he was coming in with different pressures of ‘okay, I can’t change up too much because they’ve been so successful’. It’s just a balancing act.

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“If I was in those shoes, it would be a balance act. The guys have played at a high level, the consistency in their performances has been top drawer, so you don’t come in to change a lot up.

“Dessie would have accumulated a lot of respect as a previous player but also with his underage success with the likes of Ciaran Kilkenny and Paul Mannion.

“It is difficult but Dessie is his own man. He’s more than capable of handling it.”

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