Covid-19: Down GAA facing investigation after police attend outdoor session

DOWN could be in serious hot water with the GAA after police attended an outdoor session held by the county’s senior football team on Tuesday night.

Following a report from the public of people “playing on the pitches” at Abbey CBS in Newry, PSNI officers arrived.

Having established that “no breaches of regulations had taken place as it was an elite team”, the officers left, a PSNI spokesperson said.

However, the GAA are likely to take a dim view of the apparent breach of their own regulations issued on Tuesday morning which forbid inter-county teams from any indoor or outdoor gathering until at least the end of January.

Following a call with county chairmen, a letter from Ard Stiurthoir outlined that counties in breach “will be dealt with under rule 7.2 (e) Misconduct considered to have discredited the association.”

The penalty for any breach is a minimum eight-week suspension for the team or unit in question, or where appropriate, a fine, disqualification or expulsion from the association.

Down have denied that any training session took place but said that “around 18” players, including some new call-ups, had been present in two separate groups, where they were given programmes to follow in preparation for the resumption of collective training.

Chairman Jack Devaney insisted that Down had “adhered to the directives from the GAA and we will continue to do so”.

“Our panel hadn’t been together since the Ulster semi-final and don’t plan to be back in collective training until early February as it stands,” he told The Irish News.

“A number of panel, including potential new players, were brought together last night and the management went through their individual programme plans and what they expect of them for the coming weeks, because they won’t be back together for a while.

“Someone obviously called the police in, but they were satisfied that there was no issue.”

The GAA’s leadership are likely to take a dim view of the gathering, although Down may circumnavigate punishment by claiming they did not specifically breach any regulations as it took place on Abbey CBS’ playing fields, which is not strictly GAA property, even though Down use it as their base in the absence of a permanent training centre.

The new regulations laid down by the GAA earlier in the week explicitly told counties that neither collective training nor games are permitted, as well as “outdoor gatherings on GAA property”.