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Roscommon stay silent over alleged breach of training ban

ROSCOMMON County Board remained tight-lipped yesterday on the accusation that a county senior football selection blatantly broke the inter-county training ban last week.

One Sunday newspaper reported that a Roscommon senior football selection played Dublin Institute of Technology in a challenge match at Lucan Sarsfields' ground last Wednesday night.

If so, this was a direct contravention of the GAA's 'closed season' rule that does not allow inter-county teams to play matches or hold collective training during the months of November and December.

Roscommon's top officials did not return calls on the matter yesterday.

There has been anecdotal evidence that there is widescale abuse of this rule around the country ever since the 'training ban' was introduced three years ago to help alleviate player burnout.

Dessie Farrell, chief executive of the Gaelic Players Association, said last week that the rule is being "contravened left, right and centre" and that it should be scrapped because it is both unenforceable and not doing the job it was designed to do.

Yet, although it is punishable by a loss of league revenue, the GAA has never taken any serious action.

The rule, which first-time inter-county managers find particularly difficult, is so controversial that the GAA has accepted it needs changing and has already set about tweaking it for next year.

It has been reported that several of Roscommon's first-team footballers took part in last week's challenge match.

It was played under floodlights in Lucan and one of the teams involved reportedly wore Roscommon jerseys, which immediately drew it to the attention of bystanders.

All 'friendly' matches between teams from different provinces have to be sanctioned by the GAA.

The GAA has confirmed that it did not give permission for the game, which means those who took part were not insured, raising an additional issue on top of the fact that an official rule was allegedly broken.


A GAA spokesman said:"If reliable evidence is provided that this game took place, the matter will be referred to the Central Competitions Control Committee for investigation."

Last year it was reported that Cavan had been spotted breaking the ban within their own county grounds of Kingspan Breffni Park.

Cavan escaped sanction by explaining that their first-team players were in the grounds to do rehab work and that those playing were part of a development squad, both of which are acceptable under the terms of the current ban.

However, several of Roscommon's regulars were reportedly seen playing in Lucan.

Inter-county players and managers have voiced strong objections to the ban.

Players say that they are still being asked to train during it and that their expenses for doing so are coming out of their own pockets because county boards cannot acknowledge what is going on and are turning a blind eye to the practice.

Many team managers are also opposed to it -- particularly those who have just taken over a county -- as they argue that resuming inter-country training in January does not give them enough time to prepare their players properly for the opening rounds of the Allianz Leagues in February.

A proposal is going to Congress next year to change the terms of the ban to allow teams a 'staggered' return to training, depending on when they were knocked out of the championship.

This will guarantee all players at least two months off training but allow them return to it before Christmas.

The Christmas holiday period of December 21-28 will remain sacrosanct.

• Former Roscommon manager Fergal O'Donnell has been appointed as Connacht manager for the inter-provincial series starting against Ulster in Markievicz Park on February 19.

Irish Independent