Sunday 30 April 2017

New staggered training ban to be rigidly enforced

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The GAA will not "meander" in its conviction to enforce the ban on winter training next season once new rules are passed at Congress next April.

Following Central Council approval last Saturday, a staggered return for inter-county teams to training will be introduced -- provided it gets Congress backing in 2012.

Teams will be allowed to return to collective training in accordance with when their championship season ended.

Those who are knocked out in the first round of qualifiers in football and hurling in June will be permitted to return on November 15, more than six weeks ahead of the current arrangement.

Any teams in hurling and football that last into July -- second, third and fourth round of qualifiers in football and second and third rounds of qualifier and quarter-finals in hurling -- can return by December 1.

Stay in the hunt until August -- All-Ireland quarter-finals and semi-finals in football and All-Ireland hurling semi-finals -- and the return date is December 8.

But finalists will have to wait until December 29 before they can take to the training field again.

As part of the relaxation of the training ban, however, it is proposed that no county be permitted to train from December 21-28 to allow players to have a Christmas break.

GAA director general Paraic Duffy said the association will "do whatever we have to do" to make sure the ban is observed.

"There can be no meandering this time," he said. "It needs Congress approval first and if it gets that, it is a rule that must be observed.

"The reasons for having a closed period in the first place is player welfare.

"This is a fairer system and has a much better chance of working than what was in place before.

"The closed period at Christmas will apply to all counties and it's important that this is observed."

The withdrawal of league revenue money was the penalty for breaking the ban over the last three seasons but it was never applied to a miscreant county.

Duffy refused to speculate as to what penalties would apply once the new rules are approved at Congress.

"I wouldn't like to speculate but we really can't go on the way we have been for the last three years," he said.

Anecdotal evidence of teams back in full collective training abounds across the country but the new proposals at least give teams out of the championship early an opportunity to make up some lost ground.

When counties could return to training if the new rules were brought in this year:

December 29: Dublin, Kerry (football), Kilkenny, Tipperary (hurling). December 8: Mayo, Donegal, Kildare, Tyrone, Limerick, Cork (football), Dublin Waterford (hurling).

December 1: Waterford, Offaly, Longford, Leitrim, Laois, Galway, Carlow, London, Wicklow, Antrim, Meath, Roscommon, Armagh, Wexford, Down, Derry (football), Limerick, Wexford, Galway, Clare, Cork, Antrim (hurling). November 15: Clare, Antrim, Fermanagh, Sligo, Tipperary, Louth, Cavan, Monaghan (football), Offaly, Carlow, Westmeath, Laois (hurling).

Irish Independent

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