Croker warning for counties ignoring off-season training ban

CROKE PARK has warned it will adopt a far stricter stance in relation to counties flouting the closed season collective training ban.

There have been claims in recent months that county sides at senior, U-21 and minor levels ignored the new rule prohibiting collective training at all three grades for a specified period. But none have faced charges.

The GAA’s central authorities took a deliberate decision this year not to provide for excessive sanctions, hoping that common sense would prevail and that the best interests of the players would take precedence.

That wasn’t the case in at least half a dozen counties.

“If this is indeed the case, it is simply unacceptable and, if there is convincing evidence that the rules are not being respected, we may be obliged to adopt a different approach with regard to sanctions.”

So said Director General Páraic Duffy in his annual report, which was released yesterday to the media, but prosecutions will be difficult. The reality appears to be that no-one is willing to ‘play stooge’ to Croke Park.

Said Duffy: “Those who are quick to allege that rules are being broken, but who subsequently fail to disclose details or provide evidence, should be aware that they are not serving the best interests of the Association.

“Most of the allegations I have read about elsewhere. There were a few instances where people said to me about a county training in such a place. Everybody wants something to be done about it but nobody wants to give the information.”

Duffy seems determined not to accommodate a return to the days when coaches and managers called training sessions on St Stephen’s or New Year’s Day simply as a statement of intent.

He was, however, more open to the possibility of managers being allowed to hold more than the currently allotted two trial games for players who were not panel members the previous season.

Another concession placed on the table was the possibility of pushing the January competitions and Allianz National Leagues back by a week to allow for a more adequate pre-season preparation period after January 1.

One motion due at Congress calls for the All-Ireland hurling and football finals to be brought forward by a week so that clubs can be accommodated more but Duffy isn’t an advocate.

The explanation was a simple one: exposure. May to September is the GAA’s biggest shop window and the Director General, who pointed out that the quarter-finals would be over by the first week in August anyway, is loath to reduce it.

The last month has been a tangle of competitions with National League, colleges, club and U21 all jostling for position in the crowded calendar but a number of suggested remedies were given short thrift.

The U21 football will not be switched to a summer slot as it would “paralyse” club competitions while it has been deemed unfeasible to play the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups prior to Christmas.

Duffy’s summation of the burnout issue was that the GAA had done all it could to alleviate the problem in the short-term.

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