Gardaí launch probe as Dublin footballers pictured training in Innisfails

Reports that nine of Dessie Farrell’s All-Ireland winning squad gathered in Innisfails GAA club Wednesday morning for a non-contact session.
Gardaí launch probe as Dublin footballers pictured training in Innisfails

Dublin GAA have yet to comment about photographs showing several of their senior football panel training yesterday morning in contravention of Covid-19 restrictions.

The Irish Independent reported nine of Dessie Farrell’s All-Ireland winning squad gathered in Innisfails GAA club earlier yesterday morning where they took part in a non-contact session.

Among those photographed by the newspaper include footballer of the year Brian Fenton, Jonny Cooper, Brian Howard and Cormac Costello. The session was supervised.

The incident came just hours after the Government gave the go-ahead for inter-county training to resume from April 19 but the GAA stated any breach until that time would put the return of the season in “serious jeopardy”.

Dublin GAA published the letter from GAA director general Tom Ryan and president Larry McCarthy which carried that warning on their social media platforms and official website.

Dublin GAA are all but certain to be punished by Croke Park for the breach. After being found to have staged training sessions in Youghal and Newry in January, Cork and Down’s senior footballers will have to play one of their home league games outside their counties, while managers Ronan McCarthy and Paddy Tally were suspended for 12 and eight weeks respectively.

It comes as gardaí have confirmed they are investigating alleged breaches of Covid-19 regulations after members of the team were photographed.

Officers warned that anyone found to have breached the rules will be issued with a fine.

Former GAA president, Ireland South MEP Séan Kelly, has said that some form of sanction will have to be imposed on the Dublin players involved in the training session on Wednesday which broke Covid restrictions.

“If it is true it is surprising and very disappointing – especially coming from the six in a row Dubs,” he told Newstalk Breakfast. Such a successful team had a responsibility to lead by example, he added.

“Every club and every county in the country are probably frustrated they can’t get back out on the field but there is a road map there. The GAA have outlined the guidelines and everyone will have to stick by them.” Mr Kelly said that the GAA would have to react “strongly” to this breaking of restrictions as there was a need to be consistent in the way rules were applied.

The restrictions around groups of people gathering applied to every one, he said. “Whether you are All-Ireland champions or just at the bottom of the ladder.

“This is a serious situation and hopefully it was a once-off breach that won’t happen again because if it goes without some form of formal sanction then others will say 'why can’t we do the same?' It has created a very difficult dilemma for the GAA.”

Meanwhile Sports Minister Jack Chambers has described yesterday's dawn training session attended by Dublin football players as 'disappointing and unacceptable' and has urged the GAA to take decisive action.

Speaking on Newstalk's Lunchtime Live programme, Minister Chambers agreed that it was a 'slap in the face' for all of those who have been compliant and operated within the government restrictions.

He called on the GAA to 'send a clear signal to any other player or team that this is not acceptable' and said it could also be a matter for Gardai to investigate.

"It may be but that's....the regulations are clear; anything not permitted for in the regulations is a matter for them to decide," said Chambers of possible Garda intervention before the investigation was announced.

On the GAA's role in investigating the breach, he said: "I think obviously the GAA have their system of developing sanctions and establishing the facts but it's clear any breaches should be properly dealt with. The GAA will need to send a clear signal to any other player or team that this is not acceptable, that they need to follow the rules and need to follow public health guidance and the rules that we have across the country.

"We need to see broader public health compliance and that's why there will have to be follow through from them and what happened this morning is disappointing and unacceptable."

When put to him that Dublin's non-compliance is a slap in the face to fans, supporters and all of those who have followed guidelines, he agreed enthusiastically. "It absolutely is, it absolutely is and the majority of people are upholding the public health advice whether it comes to really important occasions like funerals, like family gatherings, many people are isolated, are frustrated and I accept people are in a very difficult space and that's why over the next number of weeks there is hope but if we see blatant breaches of the rules, that undermines the integrity of the broader public health messaging. And that's why I think many people will be very disappointed this morning when they read what has happened."

Meanwhile, An Garda Síochána have said their enquiries into a GAA club in West Cork possibly breaching Covid restrictions are ongoing. Reacting to the Irish Examiner’s story on Tuesday that the Gardaí were investigating the club, Cork GAA issued a statement. “Cork County Board is aware of media reports relating to an alleged breach of guidelines at an unnamed club,” a statement read on Tuesday night.

“Public health guidance on training is very clear. Any club found to have been in breach of that guidance will face consequences as a result.”

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