No senior, U20, or minor inter-county panel should be permitted to return to collective training before December 1, according to Connacht secretary John Prenty, who has called on Croke Park to hand over governance of training rules to provincial councils.
Counties knocked out in Rounds 1, 2, and 3 of this year’s All-Ireland SFC qualifiers can tomorrow return to collective training ahead of the new season. The hurlers of Galway, Clare, and Waterford - each of whom failed to emerge from their respective provincial round-robin series this summer - are also allowed to begin collective preparations for 2020 tomorrow.
The moving of the All-Ireland U20 football championship from summer to spring means the majority of counties have already begun training ahead of their provincial opener in early February. Some U20 panels, claimed Prenty, commenced collective training for 2020 in August.
The Connacht Council secretary said there is an urgent need for a closed season and that provincial councils must be given “more teeth” to police training rules.
Similar to previous years, this weekend’s Super 11s received special dispensation from Croke Park to get around the inter-county training moratorium. All-Ireland champions Tipperary, one of the four teams involved in the one-day event in New York, are in action a full month and a half before their scheduled return date of December 29. The Premier hurlers are also likely to play two Munster SHL games before that date.
Prenty believes the current system of Croke Park attempting to monitor the training activity of all 32 counties is not workable.
“One person monitoring 32 counties isn’t on. That’s an impossible task,” said the Connacht Council secretary. “We need to put governance into the whole situation. We need to put in somebody with authority to say, you can’t train during this time, and who will make sure the sanctions are applied if rules are broken. The provinces need to be given more teeth in this area. We can monitor the teams in Connacht, somebody in Munster can do likewise with the Munster counties. What I’d be in favour of is that part of the work remit of somebody on our Connacht GAA staff would be to make sure counties adhere to the return to training dates.
"We already have provincial fixture analysts, so why can’t we have somebody in each province looking at this area too.”
U20 football managers are unlikely to agree with his suggestion of a blanket ban on collective training until December 1, given that would leave them with just two months to prepare for their championship starts.
“I don’t know why they’d need more than two months. They have club and third-level competitions at the moment to keep players busy. Teams in the Premiership have their closed season and will then start training in late June or July for the beginning of the Premiership in August. But we have to have six months training to play one match. It is not on.
“Moving the U20 championship was an issue raised by county officers so as to alleviate [team preparation] costs.
"That is grand if they want to alleviate the cost, providing they don’t just start training in August for February, which some have done.
“What’s annoying is that when this U20 competition was devised for 2019, you couldn’t start training until April 1. Again, that was a governance issue.
"It wasn’t adhered to or monitored properly. It gives more credence to the fact that somebody needs to be in charge of this area.”
The Connacht Council will run their five-team FBD League over the first three Sundays in January, concluding on January 19. Prenty does not believe pre-season competitions are contributing to the overall fixtures headache. Former Dublin footballer Ger Brennan recently recommended scrapping the pre-season competitions so as to allow an earlier start to the Allianz League.
“If you want an earlier start to the league, it means you have no closed season as counties will start training even earlier than they already are. What we really need in the association is a closed season," stressed Prenty “Pre-season competitions have no real effect [on the fixtures calendar]. The counties have to get some way of preparing for the first round of the Allianz league. If they are not playing in a pre-season competition, they are going to be going around looking for challenge matches. This way, they have one, two, or possibly three competitive games in preparation for the league.”
Connacht Council had hoped to play some FBD League games in the Air Dome which is currently under construction at their centre of excellence in Bekan, Mayo. However Prenty revealed that the Dome will not be ready until April of next year.