Croke Park have promised to fully investigate the latest claims of a breach of Covid-19 restrictions by an inter-county GAA team.
The Irish Independent has obtained photographic and video footage of a training session purportedly involving senior footballers from Monaghan, and overseen by members of the Farney’s management team. The footage appears to claim that the large gathering took place at Corduff GAA Club on the last weekend in March.
When contacted last night, Monaghan GAA chairman Declan Flanagan said the alleged session was “news to me” and insisted his county had been “holding fast” on avoiding a return to training before April 19, when senior county teams will be allowed to resume collective sessions.
However, this latest Covid-19 crisis to hit the GAA has already escalated after it emerged that a dossier detailing the alleged training breach was sent to several different parties, including the Department of Justice, as well as this newspaper.
When contacted, a GAA spokesperson confirmed that they had received a copy of the correspondence after it was forwarded on by one of the other parties yesterday evening.
The spokesperson said: “As with all of these incidents that are brought to our attention, we will investigate it thoroughly.”
This development is sure to be acutely embarrassing to the Croke Park hierarchy, coming a week after the Irish Independent published reports and photographs of a group of Dublin footballers taking part in an early-morning collective training session on Wednesday of last week.
This gathering at the Innisfails club in north Dublin was held barely 12 hours after GAA top brass issued a warning to all clubs and counties.
On that occasion, the GAA reminded all units that any breaches of the current ban on collective training could put overall plans for a return of GAA activity “in serious jeopardy”.
This afternoon, Croke Park will unveil its revised roadmap for the 2021 season, outlining how inter-county and club competitions will proceed from mid-May onwards – but that announcement is now liable to be overshadowed by yet another alleged high-profile breach.
In response to last week’s story, Dublin GAA reacted promptly and suspended manager Dessie Farrell for 12 weeks. A Croke Park investigation is ongoing.
Significantly, footage of the alleged Monaghan gathering appears to show that it took place several days before the Dublin session – and also before Croke Park’s strongly-worded reminder – but such events were still in clear contravention of restrictions at the time. The footage indicates a large number of participants, eclipsing the gathering at Innisfails.
At time of going to press, we were unable to elicit a response from Monaghan manager Séamus McEnaney. A spokesperson for Justice Minister Helen McEntee said: “Following receipt of an anonymous letter with information regarding this matter, the Department forwarded the information to the GAA, An Garda Síochána and the Department of Health for their appropriate attention.”
Gardaí have confirmed that “An Garda Síochána is making enquiries into alleged breaches of Covid regulations at a sports grounds in the north of the country”.
A Garda spokesperson added: “The Health Act 1947 (Section 31A-Temporary Restrictions) (Covid-19) (No.10) Regulations 2020, as amended, are currently in force. Regulation 11 places restriction on training events. Regulation 11 is not declared to be a penal regulation.
“If gardaí identify potential breaches of the public health regulations (travel restrictions), a fixed payment notice or notices may be issued where appropriate.”
When contacted yesterday evening, Monaghan chairman Flanagan responded: “If it is of a Monaghan training session, I’m not aware of it, because we have been holding fast on going back to training. As far as I’m concerned, Monaghan GAA are not doing any training and I’ll tell you there is very little activity on any pitch in Monaghan.”
When asked if it was his understanding that nothing has happened, Flanagan said: “The gates in Cloghan are locked, the only people can get into them is the HSE … and as far as I am concerned there is no training going on in Monaghan with any county team and that is it.”