GAA chiefs welcome fix for training ban dilemma

GAA chiefs have welcomed a motion from the Portarlington club regarding the ban on collective training for inter-county panels being confined to the month of November, with Director-General Páraic Duffy admitting that the current system is not working due to the amount of counties breaching the rules.

Duffy believes the Portarlington motion has merits but is keen for an additional break for players over Christmas.

“The rule governing the closed season should remain in place but the present situation where many counties appear to be flouting the rule cannot continue. There is general support among our players for the principle of a closed season, and while there may not be the unanimity about the best way to provide it, I believe players welcome the protection provided by our closed season rule.”

Duffy also addressed criticisms that have been made of the ban on training in November and December. He insisted that it was never the claim that the rule sorted out the issue facing inter-county players involved with either a third-level team or a successful club team. He also dismissed the argument that the ban prevents players from undertaking pre-season work before the January provincial competitions take place by pointing out those competitions are part of pre-season preparations themselves.

Finally Duffy argued against critics who point out that giving players individual training plans defeats the purpose of a closed season, by citing research that suggest athletes should not cease to keep fit in any off-season.

Meanwhile Duffy believes plans to introduce specific match bans instead of time bans for suspended players is “a sensible way of addressing an inequity” that arises in the GAA. Central Council is bringing forward a motion to next month’s Congress that will see the new system implemented for the 2012 senior intercounty season.

“There is a particular problem at inter-county level where the irregular nature of fixture-scheduling means that there can be gaps of four to five weeks between championship games. There is an obvious imbalance in a system in which a player may serve no suspension for an offence that earns another player a five-game suspension. This pilot project is a sensible way of addressing inequity.”

Duffy also slammed proposals to schedule the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups before Christmas as “ridiculous”.

“Playing off competitions in that timeframe is not realistic. It’d be ridiculous to move the Sigerson and Fitzgibbon Cups back before Christmas. The universities and third-level colleges that take part come back at the end of September or the beginning of October. You are talking about some instance colleges who can’t play before the end of October and can’t play after the first week in December. The problem in the spring, in my own opinion, is not caused by third level competitions, they’re caused by the U21 championships.”

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