Winter training ban 'damages hurling's tier-two sides'
Scrapping the winter training ban at underage level in weaker hurling counties is being recommended by a high-powered Leinster review group.
It proposes that U-21 and minor squads in those counties be allowed to commence training when they wish in order to give them a better chance of competing with elite opposition.
There would be no change for senior squads, whose return to training is linked to their exit date from the All-Ireland championship.
Under existing rules, county minor squads are not allowed to train until January 1, while March 1 is the U-21 return date.
However, the Leinster review group, which includes former GAA president Nickey Brennan and Kilkenny trainer Michael Dempsey, believes that those dates place weaker counties at a disadvantage as they don't have as many players in high-grade third- and second-level college competitions.
Their proposal follows an analysis of a wide range of activity in Offaly, Laois, Carlow and Westmeath.
"The closed season is a significant constraint for the four counties. They are at a major disadvantage with tier one counties in that very few of their U-21 and minor players are actively engaged in third- and second-level competitions," notes the report.
"This means that due to the current regulations regarding the commencement of training for U-21 and minor teams, many of their counterparts in tier one would have been actively involved with their school/college team in the months prior to the date when formal training is allowed to begin."
The review group's proposal has emerged as part of an analysis of how a €1 million hurling development fund for five weaker hurling counties (four Leinster plus Antrim) is being spent.