GAA Football

GAA to overhaul controversial pre-Championship training camp rule

Armagh's Rory Grugan in action against Clare's Gordon Kelly in the Allianz Football League Division Two clash at Pairc Esler, Newry on Sunday February 3 2019. Picture by Bill Smyth.
Paul Keane

The GAA is set to overhaul the controversial pre-Championship training camp rule which led to Armagh being stripped of home advantage for last weekend's Allianz league game.

Rule 6.22 (b) of the GAA's Official Guide currently bars inter-county panels from taking part in 'training weekends' after the league has concluded, unless it's within 10 days of their Championship opener.

Armagh were among four counties deemed to have contravened this rule last year following an investigation and were punished by the loss of home advantage for their first Division 2 league game.

That game took place last Sunday when they drew with Clare in Newry while Laois were forced to play Louth at neutral Croke Park the previous day instead of Portlaoise.

A total of 17 counties were initially investigated for rule breaches, including Dublin, though the All-Ireland champions successfully argued that their trip to France was a historical break as they visited world war two sites.

The GAA has privately acknowledged that by punishing certain counties, it acted outside of the spirit of the rule and a proposal to amend the rule will be heard by Annual Congress in Wexford on February 22/23.

Put forward by the GAA's Rules Advisory Committee, it recommends that in future counties seek permission for such training camps beforehand from the Central Competitions Control Committee.

It also tidies up the wording of the existing rule and replaces the term 'training weekend' with any collective training that involves 'an overnight stay'.

The punishment of forfeiture of a home game in the subsequent league campaign remains but it's hoped the involvement of the CCCC will cut right down the amount of rule breaks.

Armagh boss Kieran McGeeney and Laois manager John Sugrue both held their hands up to holding the illegal camps in 2019 with Armagh jetting out to Portugal and Laois training in Kerry.

"We just put our hands up and said it," revealed McGeeney last month.

It's understood that the GAA felt some private sympathy for counties that were punished despite ensuring that the holding of the training camp didn't affect their local club schedule.

"I think the bigger issue (of punishing counties) is the thing we need to look at a small bit," John Sugrue, the Laois manager said after last Saturday's Division 3 loss to Louth at Croke Park, a game that was initially scheduled for Portlaoise.

"I have no problem in the wide earthly world coughing up a game for what we did, it was the right thing last year."

The motion to Congress, number 14 of 43 proposals that will be considered on the day, also recommends altering the current staggered return to pre-season training based on when a county exited the Championship.

It is proposed that, in future, county teams 'may return to collective training and/or games for the following year on a timetable determined annually by the Central Council'.

It's part of a block of 17 proposals brought by the Rules Advisory Committee/Central Council while another group of proposals relate to age grading and the permissible ages for playing at various different levels.

One of these proposals, number 28, drawn up by the Talent Academy & Players Development Review Committee, suggests the following mandatory age grades for club activities; U-13, U-15, U-17, U-19, Adult with optional grades at U-14, U-16 and U-21 based on applications to Central Council.

Motion 32, from Castlemitchell GAA in Kildare, calls for players aged 16 prior to January 1st of a given year to be eligible for senior duty.

The next motion, number 33, from the Valentia club in Kerry, asks for players of this age only to be available for small junior clubs and for adult non-Championship games.

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