GAA Football

CPA question sanctions amid Tyrone fixtures row

Tyrone's decision to go on a training weekend to county Kildare has caused a row over club fixtures. Picture by Colm O'Reilly

CLUB Players’ Association chairman Michéal Briody has questioned the point of the rule governing the availability of inter-county players even though clubs in Tyrone have claimed victory in a row over upcoming fixtures.

The Red Hand county and Ulster counterparts Donegal are in breach of the GAA's Official Guide due to the timing of training weekends for their county squads.

Tyrone are set to spend next weekend at Carton House in county Kildare, while Donegal are currently in New York on a seven-day training camp.

Briody asked: “Why is that rule there if it’s being breached? People will blame county boards and in some cases write that they cave in too much to the county manager.

“But it has to come from the top. You have rules, and if you have rules, you need governance. If there’s a breach of that rule by Tyrone or Donegal, there has to be a meaningful penalty."

The recent decision by Tyrone manager Mickey Harte to take his senior football squad toCarton House from Friday 21 until Sunday April 23 had led to a clash with scheduled club fixtures.

Tyrone’s Competitions Control Committee (CCC) brought the games forward to Tuesday April 18 before moving them for a second time to Thursday April 20.

But following an email sent by Omagh St Enda’s to the CCC and their fellow clubs, the county’s fixture makers found themselves under pressure to change their decision.

Omagh’s email objected to the games – which are not starred fixtures, so county players are due to be available – being moved to midweek.

They were due to travel to Ardboe, which is a one-hour drive from Healy Park to the loughshore venue, which they said was unfeasible for some of their players.

“We have in our senior team a Bank Official in Dublin, a GP in Strabane, and a Doctor and two other healthcare workers in Altnagelvin, all of whom will not be able to be in Ardboe for a 7.30 throw-in due to work commitments.

“We also have players (mostly students or teachers) who are away on pre-arranged holidays during Easter Week so as not to miss games at the weekend that were originally scheduled.”

Their plea for support from fellow clubs was met, with the required 15 (as decreed by county bye-laws) supporting them in asking for a specially convened county committee meeting.

It had been called for early next week but the county’s CCC yesterday bowed and returned the games to their original date, with later throw-in times of 6pm for senior fixtures.

That will allow the Tyrone squad to continue as planned with their training weekend and return home in time to play in the club fixtures.

The training weekend still remains in breach of the GAA’s official guide, rule 6.22 (b), which states that inter-county panels are not permitted to go on training weekends between the end of the National League and outside the 13 days prior to a Championship game.

Donegal are in a similar scenario as their senior footballers are currently in New York, although they had informed clubs of their intention to do so before the county’s club fixture list was published.

Clubs therefore agreed in February to play a round of starred games during the county team’s break, although the under-21s’ run to the All-Ireland series has also played havoc with club fixtures in the county.

However, breaching rule 6.22 doesn’t carry any sanction, which CPA chairman Briody feels is at the heart of the issue.

“Why is that rule there if it’s being breached? People will blame county boards and in some cases write that they cave in too much to the county manager.

“But it has to come from the top. You have rules, and if you have rules, you need governance. If there’s a breach of that rule by Tyrone or Donegal, there has to be a meaningful penalty.

“A €100 fine is irrelevant, county boards will take that every day of the week. It has to be something like sacrificing home advantage in the League the following year and you have seven away games, or something like that. How would that stick?

”County managers are under a lot of pressure and the only thing they see is success for the county. The county chairperson is measured the same. I don’t know why that rule is one rule that’s never enforced.

“It can be policed, it’s quite straightforward. All those county players should be available to play for their clubs that weekend, and to play the full 60 minutes, not come on for a token few minutes as directed by county managers, which does happen.

“I cannot criticise Mickey Harte or the Tyrone county board for that. You have to go back to the top and look at Congress and say ‘Do not put in a rule unless there’s a sanction’.”

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