GAA seeks to tighten up rule on inter-county training trips

Last season 17 counties were investigated for being in breach of the rule

Galway hurlers line up in Boston for the  Fenway Classic final against Clare in November. Photograph: Emily Harney/Inpho

Galway hurlers line up in Boston for the Fenway Classic final against Clare in November. Photograph: Emily Harney/Inpho

 

The problem with some rules is they’re open to interpretation.

Given the recent evidence of anomalies or indeed unfair exemption, this weekend’s GAA Congress will look to amend the existing rule surrounding the closed months/collective training of senior intercounty panels.

Motion 14 – one of the opening 17 motions submitted by Central Council, consequent upon a report of the rules advisory committee – seeks an amendment and addition to Rule 6.45: it could be viewed as a tightening or relaxing of the rule, depending on the exact interpretation.

The rule heading will change from “closed months/collective training” to “closed periods/collective training”, and, crucially, the following paragraph is added: “Collective training for all senior inter-county team panels which involves an overnight stay is not permitted from April 1st to November 1st except during the 10 days prior to that team playing in a championship game (or 17 days, if the game in question is an All-Ireland final) unless written permission has been given in advance by the Central Competitions Control Committee (CCCC)”

Currently, there is no provision for teams to receive that written permission from the CCCC; Rule 6.22 (b), which governs intercounty players availability to clubs, also stated that teams “shall not be permitted to go on training week-ends, or training of longer duration, after the final of their respective National League having been played, except during the 10 days period prior to a senior championship game, or during the 17 days prior to an All-Ireland senior final.”

By the end of last season, 17 counties were reportedly being investigated by management committee for being in breach of the rule, including All-Ireland football champions Dublin, who visited war memorials in Flanders in early May, albeit for purely cultural and historical reasons.

Only four counties were sanctioned (the penalty being forfeiture of home venue for their next home game in the National League); the Armagh and Laois footballers, and the Wexford and Waterford hurlers.

Wexford successfully appealed that decision after the county board claimed they neither funded nor approved the team trip to Portugal in April.

The Armagh, Laois and Waterford sanctions all stood; Laois lost home advantage for their Division Three game against Louth (played in Croke Park) while Waterford hurlers travelled to Thurles for their 1B meeting with Offaly. Armagh also lost home advantage for their Division 2 clash with Clare (played in Newry).

Training trips

Waterford hurling manager Páraic Fanning was among those to express his dismay, pointing at the obvious “inconsistency”, including the fact some counties were also flouting the closed season in November by taking part in games in the US and Australia in November (the Super-11 Fenway Classic in Boston, and the Sydney Hurling Cup involving Galway and Kilkenny).

That “inconsistency” would be addressed by allowing counties to apply for written permission for such training trips, at home or abroad, for possible clearance by CCCC. The change in wording is significant too (from “training week-ends” to “overnight stay”), as some counties escaped sanction by claiming their trip did not include a weekend.

Also among the 43 motions up for debate – all requiring a 60 per cent majority to be passed – is a further amendment on the rule governing so-called foreign games looking to use Association property. Motion 11, also from Central Council, seeks to amend Rule 5.1, formerly Rule 42, revising not just the wording but also the tone.

If passed, it would give Central Council the power to sanction the use of all county or provincial grounds “for activities other than those controlled by the Association” and “in accordance with policy adopted by Central Council”.

Currently this only applies in exceptional circumstances to Croke Park.

Should it be passed, it will be the first major extension of the rule governing the use of GAA grounds since the then Rule 42 was modified in 2005 to allow rugby and soccer internationals to be played in Croke Park during the reconstruction of Lansdowne Road.

The Donegal motion seeking to prevent any county from playing two games at Croke Park during the Super-8s was also cleared for Congress.

If passed, it will prevent any county from designating Croke Park as a ‘home’ venue in the Super 8s football stage, such as Dublin did last year (meaning they were guaranteed two games in GAA headquarters).

Motion 11 also looks to clarify the criteria governing the choice of venue for intercounty championship matches, partly of the back on the decision of the CCCC to fix the qualifier match between Kildare and Mayo for Croke Park last year – the game went ultimately went ahead in Newbridge.

The new rule simply states that venues “shall meet the criteria set down by the national facilities/health and safety committee”, meaning that ground capacity will not be the primary or overriding factor.

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