Drug testing should be condition of GAA membership, argues Wexford boss

Wexford boss Hegarty firmly believes that it would be a positive measure.
Drug testing should be condition of GAA membership, argues Wexford boss

2005: John Hegarty during his playing days. Pic: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Availability to be drug tested should be considered as a requisite to obtaining GAA membership, says new Wexford senior football manager John Hegarty.

Speaking in March, Hegarty, chairman of Healthy Wexford and a Fine Gael councillor, said: “For the vast majority of members who have nothing to fear, it would be no problem and those who do might think twice and it would give confidence to parents of young people.” 

Hegarty firmly believes that it would be a positive measure. 

“All of us are club members and I was particularly thinking about the kids’ involvement and it’s something I want to encourage, and I want to show that it is a healthy and positive environment, which we all know it is because that’s why we’re involved in it.

“Certainly, I would have no hesitation in that whatsoever and I entirely stand over it. I think it is a fantastic organisation and that is seen the length and breadth of Ireland and anything that can be done to ensure that reputation is maintained... so, I would be coming at it from a positive perspective as opposed to point out the problem.” 

Tipperary club Drom & Inch have a motion at Tipperary convention on Sunday calling for the drug testing process for inter-county players to be extended to club players “at an appropriate scale”. Laois’ Rathdowney-Errill earlier this year had a motion deferred to the GAA’s community and health department, which recommended all adult players undertake an online anti-drugs and gambling education programme to be eligible for championship participation.

Regarding those proposals, Hegarty said: “I think that the education piece is crucial, and I know clubs in Wexford who have already engaged in that on a voluntary basis and there wasn’t any indication that there was a problem with them. I viewed that as really positive, proactive initiatives in those clubs.

“Our inter-county players already know that is expected of them and any senior club team around who are serious about their hurling or football, they are very close to an inter-county team in preparation. The lads live the lifestyle."

Former Wexford defender Hegarty will be placing more of an emphasis on getting out of Division 4 than the Tailteann Cup in 2023. “The way I look at that is before we play Laois in the championship we have 10 competitive games. Depending on the results of those, the championship is a very different prospect.” 

He added: "Going back to my playing career, I spent half of my playing career in the very depths of Division 4 where it was very difficult to gain any momentum, traction or encouragement to keep players. Gradually, over a 10-year period we ended up at a point when we were operating in Division 1 of the league and getting to a final.

“I’m in no way downgrading the Tailteann Cup or its importance but to be operating at a higher standard you need to be going back to week-in, week-out and that’s the league, seven games each year. It’s really crucial.”

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