Uninsured players at risk in 'illegal' games
The widespread ignoring of the GAA's winter training ban has taken a worrying turn with the revelation that players taking part in unsanctioned games are not insured.
Last Wednesday night, the Sunday Independent observed a challenge game between a Roscommon senior football selection and Dublin Institute of Technology at Lucan Sarsfields' GAA grounds. The game, which was played under lights, featured several of Roscommon's first-team footballers.
It has since emerged that because the game involved teams from two different provinces it should have been sanctioned by the Central Competitions Control Committee.
On Friday, the GAA confirmed that they did not give permission for the game to go ahead and that the players who took part were therefore not covered by the Association's player insurance scheme.
"Players participating in an illegal challenge game are not covered by GAA insurance," said a GAA spokesperson in response to a query from this paper. "The alleged game is in contravention of both Rule 6.40 and Rule 6.44 and is, therefore, illegal.
"If reliable evidence is provided that this game took place the matter will be referred to the Central Competitions Control Committee for investigation."
In Lucan, no effort was made to disguise the rule breaking; both sides warmed up in public view, donned their official jerseys and had backroom teams on the line. The game was played on the main field at the Lucan grounds, and more than 15 people watched from the sidelines as a camogie team trained on the adjacent astroturf.
The GAA's Official Code states that the months of November and December shall be closed months for all games involving inter-county teams and collective training for inter-county panels. There is anecdotal evidence of other teams playing similar type challenge games this month.
COMMENT, PAGE 6
Last year it was reported that Cavan flouted the ban by holding collective training in Breffni Park. They escaped sanction from the GAA by explaining that the first team players were in the grounds for rehab work and that the others were part of a development squad, both of which are acceptable under the terms of the ban.
However, Roscommon will not be able to use the same excuse as several of their well-known regulars were observed playing the game in Lucan.
Although the GAA's winter training ban doesn't include colleges, DIT are still guilty of putting their players at risk by allowing them to play without insurance. A number of high-profile inter-county players also lined out for the college side.
A spokesperson for Roscommon County Board said he was unaware of the game when contacted yesterday but said he would investigate and call back. He could not be contacted for the rest of the day.
A spokesperson for DIT was also contacted. He said he needed to check the records to see if the game went ahead and would call back. He too could not be reached again.
This worrying development comes after the Sunday Independent revealed last week how players are being exploited during the ban period. Many are not being provided with food after training, must bring their own water to sessions and are not being paid travel expenses.
The controversial ban is set for an overhaul in 2012 following Central Council approval last month. Inter-county teams will be allowed back training depending on when they are knocked out of the All-Ireland championship.
The teams that are knocked out at the first stage of qualifiers can return to training on November 15 and the dates are staggered as they progress in the competition.
If a team reaches the final, they cannot return to training until December 29. And a Christmas break is also set to be enforced for a week from December 21-28.
Last week, GPA chief executive Dessie Farrell called for the ban to be done away with completely.
Farrell said it was not helping a lot of players who are at actual risk of burnout and that it should be up to the counties themselves to deal with the individual players at the centre of this issue.
Sunday Indo Sport