No plans for GAA to punish counties training before September 14

No plans for GAA to punish counties training before September 14
GAA director of player, club, and games administration Feargal McGill revealed an open draw for the All-Ireland senior football championship was considered during the fixtures press conference at Croke Park. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

GAA president John Horan said Croke Park have no plans to punish counties who return to collective training before September 14. However, they would welcome information on those that do.

“We're not intending to,” he said of issuing penalties. “We'd like people to call them out but we're not actually intending to impose any penalties.” 

Director general Tom Ryan said they will consider the matter further in the coming weeks but punishments are unlikely. 

“Today is about the fixtures programme and the calendar and what that might look like. The next step is looking at what safeguards that we put around that. But I think myself, the last three or four months, and the reason we're at the stage we're at is because the country as a whole and the Association has shown a great degree of restraint and personal responsibility.

It hasn't been a summer for penalties and for sanctions and I'm not really sure that's the right realm for this thing either.

“We'll be asking people to abide by those because they're the right thing to do. If there's a second stage required in terms of sanctions and penalties and so on, yeah of course we'll look at that. But that's not one for today.” 

GAA director of player, club, and games administration Feargal McGill revealed an open draw for the All-Ireland senior football championship was considered.

“We didn't rule anything in or out when we sat down to do the fixtures. A couple of things though did occur to us while we were doing those, the first thing is if you play the provincial championships in football, you're going to have four teams with silverware at the end of the year.

“In hurling, you're going to have two teams as winners and possibly three if a different team wins an All-Ireland. So that was one of the reasons, you're going to have five finals and at least four teams with silverware.

“Another reason was, you have to consider, what are you trying to solve in terms of having an open draw? Usually people will tell you, what you're going to solve is avoiding cannon fodder for the big teams. But an open draw does not solve that, in fact, it might add to it. So on balance, we felt the best approach was the provincial championships.” 

As regards finishing up in the calendar year, McGill added that they were attempting to contain the damage done by the pandemic to the calendar.

“The big thing is we're keeping an eye on 2021 as well. So if you went into January, February with your championships, it causes mayhem for 2021. I suppose we wanted to minimise the damage, for want of a better word, that Covid has done to the GAA and done to our fixtures.

“It's like pulling off a plaster, get it done as quickly as you can and try to get back to normal as soon as you can. We will be coming back obviously with a 2021 Master Fixtures Plan later in the year and I think it'll make more sense then as to why we did what we did. We're still probably going to have to compromise a bit around the 2021 calendar.

“But if you went into January and February, you have to build in a rest period after the All-Ireland finals are over. So really if you're talking about playing an All-Ireland final in February, you're talking about not being able to restart until March or April and the knock-on effect of that would obviously be a negative one for clubs. So that was at the centre of our thinking as well.”

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