GAA Football

Dubs breach must act as a warning shot to counties and clubs says Ulster chief Brian McAvoy

Dublin GAA's management committee have suspended boss Dessie Farrell in the wake of last week's training breach. Picture by Philip Walsh
Neil Loughran

ULSTER GAA chief executive Brian McAvoy hopes that Dublin’s breach of training guidelines will act as a warning shot to clubs and counties not to put planned return dates in jeopardy.

Last Thursday pictures of a covert early morning session were printed in The Irish Independent, with current Footballer of the Year Brian Fenton and defensive stalwart Jonny Cooper among a small group contravening the GAA’s current ban on inter-county training.

Irish sports minister Jack Chambers has since confirmed that, despite the controversy, senior inter-county panels will still be able to resume training on April 19 as planned – though there are fears that could change if other breaches came to light in the meantime.

And, with clubs allowed to resume training in the North next Monday, McAvoy hopes the highlighting of the Dubs’ case will act as a deterrent across the board.

“Absolutely, I would have thought so,” said the Burren man.

“I thought it was an April Fool if I’m being honest… unfortunately we’ve had a number of breaches – Down, Cork and now Dublin. We are still in a pandemic and there are cautious steps towards coming out of that.

“One swallow doesn’t make a summer but if it was to become commonplace, as Jack Chambers said… I think counties will realise there’s a bigger prize at stake here, and trying to steal a week’s training ahead of somebody else isn’t going to make one iota of difference.

“Obviously after the incident with Dublin, it’s important we don’t do anything that will jeopardise our return dates and, if anybody was thinking of doing it, well hopefully they can see that we’re so close now.

“We’re within a couple of weeks now - don’t do anything that will unsteady the ship.”

Even prior to the Dubs’ breach, anecdotal evidence of other counties training away from prying eyes had been doing the rounds, with former Armagh footballer Aidan O’Rourke claiming in Saturday’s Irish News that “90 or 95 per cent of Division One and Two sides have been training in small groups”.

McAvoy, though, insists counties in Ulster have been observing the guidelines.

“Counties know - we speak to them regularly - and county managers know they can’t be training,” he said.

“You may have heard anecdotal evidence, that doesn’t mean it’s happening. Teams haven’t been training, I know that. They have been observing it.”

All-Ireland champions Dublin were not the first to be found breaching guidelines this year, with Down manager Paddy Tally receiving an eight week ban from the GAA and Cork football boss Ronan McCarthy a 12-week sanction for similar incidents.

In response to last week’s incident, Dublin’s management committee issued a public apology and imposed a 12-week ban on boss Dessie Farrell.

The GAA expressed “frustration and extreme disappointment” in the wake of Thursday’s revelation, and an investigation into the incident is expected to commence this week.

“Less than 48 hours ago, the Association reiterated its commitment to these current guidelines and called for continued compliance in the weeks ahead,” read the GAA statement.

“While we acknowledge that the overwhelming majority of counties and clubs have complied in an appropriate and responsible way with the restrictions currently in place, we once again call on our members and units to uphold the integrity of the Association as part of our ongoing efforts to play our role in thwarting the virus and ensuring a return to activity when it is safe to do so.”

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GAA Football