Longford chair Albert Cooney slams GAA's handling of inter-county Covid breaches

Cooney has hit out at the leniency of the punishments handed to Cork, Down, Dublin, and Monaghan
Longford chair Albert Cooney slams GAA's handling of inter-county Covid breaches

Dublin manager Dessie Farrell received a three-month suspension after his side were caught training - against both GAA rules and Covid guidelines. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Longford chairman Albert Cooney has condemned the GAA’s handling of the Covid training breaches by counties.

Cooney has hit out at the leniency of the punishments handed to Cork, Down, Dublin, and Monaghan, which comprised losing home advantage in one National League game and three-month suspensions for Ronan McCarthy, Dessie Farrell, and Seamus McEnaney and a two-month ban for Paddy Tally.

The threat of being dumped out of the league and Championship would have been enough to ensure compliance with the collective train which ended last Monday, says Cooney.

Instead, he feels the penalties handed down were not commensurate with the breaches.

“The counties who broke the training ban have been treated very lightly as far as we’re concerned,” he said. “We’re very disappointed with the way the GAA has handled this whole situation and not got tough with the guys who have broken the regulations.

“The problem is the GAA didn’t lay down the law beforehand.

They should have put in a rule that said any county caught breaking the regulations would be removed from the competitions. I guarantee not one of them would have taken a chance then.

However, Cooney expressed relief the new rule prohibiting joint captains is not expected to be enforced strongly. In February, Central Council chose to support the proposal, which insisted only one person could accept a cup on behalf of a winning team.

Longford and Wexford were among the counties who voiced their opposition to it; Longford on the basis that they have several amalgamated club teams in their county where the long-standing practice has been for a player from each club to be appointed co-captain.

“There were a number of counties who had a similar problem to what we had. Our problem is we have a number of what they call independent clubs whose numbers are that low that they have to come together to form teams.

“In that situation, the tradition in the county was a player from each club would be appointed joint-captain and give a sense of ownership to each parish. The new rule brought in cancels that out and the very fact it came up surprised a lot of delegates because it wasn’t discussed much prior to Congress.

“The upshot of it is it has been discussed at Central Council since and that the rule mightn’t be applied rigorously, put it that way.

There wasn’t enough said about it prior to being brought and I think the authorities realised more thought had to be put into it.

Cooney believes there was little consideration given to how smaller counties operate in the rule.

“On All-Ireland final day, it might affect the ceremonial part of the cup being handed over, I don’t know. The Ard Stiúrthóir (Tom Ryan) made a comment it might be about tidying up the presentation but they seemed to be totally focused on how it might look in an All-Ireland final and forgot about the grassroots and what happens down the country.”

Cooney could envisage the issues the rule would have caused in Longford had it been put into operation.

“This would cause a lot of problems. Sometimes, you can have a serious rivalry between two parishes but then they come together at under-age for the betterment of football in those parishes. But if you have a situation arising from that when the captain has to be from one parish and one only that has the potential to cause a split in the amalgamation.

“Our duty is to promote football and get as many young people playing football as possible and create a positive environment. This rule certainly goes against that.”

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