Outcome justifies Golf Ireland’s rational approach to Government – Kennelly

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Mark Kennelly - Golf Ireland CEO

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Golf Ireland CEO Mark Kennelly has defended the part the union played in ensuring golf returned to the fairways of Ireland at the earliest opportunity amid-Covid-19.

Speaking on our Irish Golfer Podcast, Kennelly expressed his understanding of the frustrations many golfers have felt over the past four months in lockdown but insists ‘mega-phone diplomacy’ was not the answer to golf securing a much-sought reopening.

“We were all frustrated and a lot of our members were frustrated but we adopted a conscious strategy of making a fact-based rational argument for the resumption of golf and part of that was not to engage in mega-phone diplomacy or to negotiate in public,” Kennelly said.

“By definition then, a lot of the engagement we couldn’t share publicly or share with our membership but I think we did regularly update our membership on the key arguments we were making.

“Other sectors have chosen to adopt a much more public approach to negotiation but we felt, and I think this is now justified in the outcome, that making the rational argument and not engaging in mega-phone diplomacy was the best route back for golf.”

Golf Ireland has come under criticism for a perceived lack of fight when it came to the best interests of golfers during level-5 lockdown. Frustration was evident amongst the golf community on social channels who believed more could’ve been done to present the case for golf’s reopening given how it naturally lends itself to socially distancing and is safe.

However, Kennelly assured golfers in Ireland that from the minute level-5 lockdown hit in December, his team were in touch with Government doing their all to get this exact message across.

“As soon as the country was put back into level-5 lockdown at the end of December, we immediately set about making the case for golf to be included in the early stages of the reopening of society,” said Kennelly. “The situation for the whole country was pretty bleak in January, the covid numbers were extremely high.

“Not withstanding that, we put a very detailed written submission together which we presented to Government in January highlighting the safety of golf and the very many proven health benefits of golf, and we had a process of intense engagement right across the Government systems and Sport Ireland, to health authorities and relevant Government departments throughout the months of January, February and March continuing to make that objective case based on the facts.”

Golf Ireland were able to use the game’s glowing track record in keeping golf open safely whenever it’s been permitted throughout this pandemic as an asset in these negotiations.

“We were not aware of a single cluster or outbreak directly associated with the playing of golf and that is a real testament to the work and diligence of the clubs keeping, not just their own members and clubs safe, but in doing so, keeping the wider community safe,” Kennelly added.

“The responsibility the golf community took on in making public health their first priority really paid off in the engagement we had trying to get golf to be one of the first activities to be allowed to resume in 2021. It really stood to us that we had that evidence and that proof. We were very happy about that.”

Given golf has never closed in places like Scotland, while Northern Ireland were given the green light to resume playing on April 1, Kennelly did concede that there was a frustration that golf’s return didn’t arrive sooner, but hoped Monday’s restart would provide much needed light at the end of a long tunnel for golfers in the ROI.

“Even though the resumption is coming later than we hoped for and we fully understand that many golfers have been very frustrated at the up and down nature of this pandemic, we were equally frustrated,” he said.

“Every time we saw negative trends in the pandemic numbers we knew that was going to make our task even more challenging but we stuck with it, and our stated objective right from the beginning of the year was to get golf open at the earliest possible opportunity at the initial stage of reopening and that’s what’s happening on Monday.”

Kennelly now hopes that despite the false start for golf in Ireland in 2021, that players are eager to make up for lost time ahead of one of the more exciting Mondays we’ve had to look forward to in recent weeks.

“I hope, despite the frustrations of the last four months, and there have been many, that the golfers of Ireland are looking forward to getting back to doing what they love,” he said.

“That’s why we’re all involved in this, because we love the sport. That’s what everyone’s itching to do, to get back on the course. The clubs have been dusted down. Hopefully people are booking their tee-times in advance for next week and we’re all looking forward to it.

“That’s really when things become a reality for Golf Ireland, when we’re not talking about the resumption, we’re actually doing it, and hopefully it’s the last time we’re going to have to reopen golf.”

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5 responses to “Outcome justifies Golf Ireland’s rational approach to Government – Kennelly”

  1. Noel avatar

    Golf is only open for players who live in the same county or within 20 kilometres of their club. There are many of us who don’t meet either of those criteria, so are still excluded from playing. As clubs are only open to members, we can’t even pay and play in our own county. It’s a little early to be patting yourself on the back, Mr Kennelly.

  2. John avatar

    Mr Kennelly is not in touch with how golfers feel about the timing of reopening golf, which by the way is still very restricted with only 2 players allowed together. Politicians respond to pressure that might impact their future votes hence the GAA training reopened last week, despite several high profile breaches of the restrictions, the GAA vote is perceived to be stronger than the Golf vote.
    Nothing Mr Kennelly has stated would give me confidence in the performance of him and his team.

  3. Noel avatar

    Maybe He (Mark Kennelly) has fallen out with his buddies in Fine Gael. After all, as someone having previously held various senior roles in the party, including Chef de Cabinet for Enda Kenny, you’d think he’d have the ear of someone with clout… Or maybe he just doesn’t want to upset them?

  4. John murphy avatar
    John murphy

    I know this a contradiction of terms but Kennelly you are a totally inept twat

    1. michael avatar

      Now now calm down this is Ireland and that is how it works. Who you know is all that matters what you know is irrelevant.

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