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GPA not convinced by training proposal

THE Gaelic Players' Association (GPA) have expressed concerns that the staggered, closed-season, due to go before Congress in 2012, may not go far enough to address the needs of county squads.

The GPA admits the staggered flexible model is fairer, but may still be too difficult to police in the same way the current system is deemed unworkable.

The players' body accepted the current moratorium, which forbids collective training in November and December, is being widely flouted and that players are, in some cases, been asked to train without receiving expenses and meals.

"Everyone agrees that players need a proper rest period, but that shouldn't be a cost-cutting measure or at the expense of the necessary pre-hab work they have to do to prepare for the season ahead," said GPA spokesperson Sean Potts. "Everyone concerned, including county boards and managers, have a responsibility to ensure that the welfare of the player is appropriately addressed."

In particular, they stressed the need to protect young players who have club, county, college and U-21 commitments, from burnout.

"If the primary objective behind the ban is to protect against player burnout, then we need to examine more closely the demands being placed on this cohort of players. These are the most vulnerable players and the ban does little to protect them," added Potts.

"The GPA has advocated reform of the training ban and welcomes Paraic Duffy's efforts to solve the problem, but we're concerned it may require further consideration. With the various vested interests of clubs, counties, managers and colleges, the training ban needs to be tailored around the individual, rather than specific set dates in the calendar, however flexible. Someone needs to take responsibility to ensure every player has a definitive period of rest. Ideally we would have a situation where one person oversees all this in each county.

"The GPA did advocate a flexible time model initially, whereby counties could take their two-month break whenever it suited, at any point after their exit from the championship. However, guaranteeing that the new rule isn't circumvented again may be impossible. As an association, introducing rules which are going to be ignored is not good practice, despite the best intentions."

No county has faced sanction under the current ban, but GAA director general Duffy has already underlined his determination to enforce the new training ban.


"There can be no meandering this time," he said last month. "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 is player welfare. This is a fairer system and has a much better chance of working than what was in place before."

Under the new proposals counties will be allowed to return to collective training in accordance with when their championship season ended.

Teams eliminated 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 can return by December 1.

Teams still in action in August 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. It is proposed no county be permitted to train from December 21-28 to allow players a Christmas break.

Irish Independent