Another episode would be embarrassing but should not impact on new season
Last weekend the GAA president, Larry McCarthy, took to the local Cork radio station ‘Red FM’ for an interview and in the course of it, he expressed confidence that the collective training breach by Dublin last week would not put the inter-county GAA season in jeopardy. It was a fair and accurate assumption, already articulated by Minister for Sport Jack Chambers the previous Thursday.
“I don’t think that honestly, this particular incident is going to impact it,” McCarthy told the station. “But if there was another one? Oh Lord, that would make it very difficult for us.”
News that the GAA is investigating another potential breach in Monaghan comes as the Association’s Management Committee continues its own investigation into Dublin’s breach last week, with the conclusion expected this week.
When contacted yesterday to put to them the existence of photographic evidence that the Irish Independent has seen – the same evidence was also sent to the GAA and the Department of Justice – the county was firm in its denial that there was no case to answer, that there hasn’t been a breach.
And in time that conviction could hold up in the investigation. But if it was established that a breach took place, what impact could it potentially have on the season, given the difficulty suggested by the GAA president last weekend?
The GAA is due to sign off on its revised fixtures master plan later today that will outline the dates for competitions in the months ahead, a shortened football league followed by a straight knock-out championship with a five-round hurling league followed by a championship similar to last year the most likely roll-out – with All-Ireland finals in hurling and football from the middle to the end of August.
Timing is the key. According to the evidence presented anonymously to the GAA and Department of Justice, as well as the Irish Independent, the latest alleged breach appears to have taken place on the last weekend in March.
That was prior to the Taoiseach’s announcement that inter-county games could go ahead from April 19 and also prior to the GAA’s subsequent statement welcoming the scheduled return but also pointing out that “it is more important than ever that no collective training sessions are held between now and the Government indicated return dates”, it said.
“Breaches in this context will not only be dealt with under our own rules but would likely put the broader plan to return to activity in serious jeopardy.”
If another breach had taken place after Dublin’s transgression last week and, more importantly, after the GAA had doubled down on the need to observe the ban on training in advance of April 19, the ‘difficulty’ expressed by the new president last weekend would have been more acute.
But while penalties would accrue if it is established that there has been a breach in this case, a threat to the season still remains unlikely.
The issue of collective training has been elevated this week by the discussion around the risks attached to outdoor activity and the report that just 0.1pc of outbreaks, 262 from the 232,164 recorded cases of Covid up to March 24 last, have come from outdoor activities.
The risks may not be great but the contravention of State rules around Covid gatherings are and for the GAA to be investigating another potential breach, albeit prior to their last statement, casts another shadow over the season so soon after last week.