Down manager Paddy Tally says being seen as a "lawbreaker" and an "enemy of the public" isn’t fun and admits he has sympathy for the other managers similarly punished for Covid-19 regulation breaches.
Tally was hit with a 12-week suspension, later reduced to eight, after his players convened in Newry in early January against GAA regulations.
The Mourne manager said the gathering to distribute training programmes was "quite innocent" and that the PSNI "didn’t have any issue with what we were doing" but he acknowledged it did break GAA rules and that in that regard Down "hadn’t got a leg to stand on’"
Cork manager Ronan McCarthy was hit with a 12-week suspension after players were spotted around the same time training on Youghal Beach.
More recently, Dublin manager Dessie Farrell and Monaghan’s Seamus ‘Banty’ McEnaney also received 12-week bans for similar infractions with all four counties additionally stripped of home advantage for their opening Allianz League games.
In Down’s case, they must play Meath in neutral Armagh on May 23 in Round 2 of Division 2 north. Speaking on SportsJOE’s The GAA Hour podcast, Tally said he takes no consolation from other counties being punished too.
“Absolutely not, far from it to be honest,” said Tally. “I think the whole thing has become a bit of a circus and I feel for anybody that has gone through that process because it’s not a nice thing to be dragged through the press and to be seen as some sort of a lawbreaker and some sort of an enemy of the public, which we’re certainly not.
“The GAA aren’t like that and anybody that’s involved in it knows that. So it wasn’t a comfortable position to be in. I wouldn’t take any joy from the fact that it’s happened to Banty or what’s going to happen to Dessie Farrell or Ronan McCarthy, or anybody else in the same position. It is what it is and we have to just accept it and move on.”
A group of Down players met outdoors at a school in Newry in January, something Tally thought was okay to do at the time.
“Looking back on it, if I had to do it again I wouldn’t have done it because the GAA did put the regulation in that there’s no collective (meetings). And by the rules of the organisation, 7.2 (a) or whatever the rule was, I remember looking back on it and it’s when one or more people are asked to be in a certain place at a certain time at a certain date, that constitutes a collective training session.
“I didn’t understand the rules until I really started reading into it.
Really if you ask one player to be at one place at a certain time, you’ve broken the rule. So we hadn’t got a leg to stand on. We had to accept we’d broken the rule and just get on with it.
Tally confirmed that a member of the PSNI did attend the gathering.
“There was no issue, they didn’t have any issue with what we were doing,” said the former Galway and Tyrone coach.
“We weren’t breaking any laws. They were satisfied with what they saw.
“I think the words the guy said was, ‘Listen, I don’t want to be holding you back, away you go’.”
- The full interview with Down manager Paddy Tally is available on SportsJOE’s The GAA Hour podcast.