County chairpersons have been told they will be held responsible should their county teams be found to have trained before September 14.
The possibility of their sides being thrown out of the Championship also hasn’t been ruled out as chairs were given a warning by Croke Park officials in a conference meeting yesterday,
The chairpersons themselves have been told they will be the ones who are suspended in the event that a charge of breaching the club window before September 14, the official start date for inter-county training, is proven.
The offence for such will be considered “misconduct considered to have discredited the Association”, which is outlined in Rule 7.2 (e) of the GAA’s Official Guide. Suspension is a minimum of eight weeks for a member while debarment and expulsion from the GAA may also be considered. For a team, a fine, disqualification and expulsion from the GAA are also deemed appropriate penalties.
The Irish Examiner understands that Croke Park hope the direct threat of embarrassment to the chairpersons will be enough to ensure county teams cease training until that time. Any chair whose county has been charged with training prior to the middle of September will have 48 hours to respond to the claim.
After last week ruling out sanctioning counties who breach the September 14 guideline, the GAA this week hardened their stance in the wake of negative commentary that their insistence on the date being respected was soft.
Croke Park had hoped the lack of insurance would be enough of a deterrent to stop teams convening for training sessions. However, aside from the criticism of their handling of the issue last week further anecdotal evidence of counties training is also believed to have convinced top officials to act.
While GAA president John Horan ruled out the idea of teams being sanctioned for contravening the guideline, he did encourage people to come forward with information on any who were believed to be training. He reiterated that point to county chairs yesterday but highlighted there would be serious repercussions for any counties found to have prematurely returned to collective training.
Last week, GAA director general Tom Ryan suggested they could look at sanctions at a later date although he was reticent about dolling out punishments. “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 have to do an awful lot of things right in order for us to get to that stage (organising inter-county games) and part of that is abiding by the timelines and principles that we've set out.
“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.”
In the conference call, Horan is also understood to have highlighted the issue of counties breaching GAA rules regarding training camps two years ago. Ten counties were initially informed they had a case to answer for organising camps but only Waterford’s hurlers and the footballers of Armagh and Laois were punished and lost home advantage for one Allianz League game last year.
Meanwhile, Clare GAA treasurer Michael Gallagher has warned that the county board could go bust if it does not rein in its expenditure. That was his stark warning at last Monday’s board meeting held in Cusack Park last Monday where delegates were told a €250,000 bank loan must be repaid to AIB by the end of the year.
With Clare accruing no income at present, Gallagher admitted he has no idea where the money will come from for that and expressed concern about what had been spent on preparing inter-county teams, which he stressed had become “a runaway train” with “three to four physios” treating teams and “backroom teams of 18 people”. According to the Clare Echo, Gallagher stated that if the costs weren’t cut “Clare County Board will go bust”.
Gallagher’s remarks about inter-county teams were challenged by Kilmaley delegate and senior hurling team kitman Niall Romer who highlighted senior hurling manager Brian Lohan wasn’t taking expenses and the backroom team was “very small”. He also highlighted players hadn’t yet received gear, which chairman Joe Cooney said would be addressed.