Laois football manager, John Sugrue, has penned an open letter highlighting the selective enforcement of rules by the GAA.
Laois are one of four counties set to lose home advantage in one National League game next year as punishment for holding a training camp outside of the time periods designated by the GAA.
Rule 6.22 (b) of the GAA handbook states:
Senior Inter-County Panels shall not be permitted to go on Training Week-ends, or training of longer duration, after the Final of their respective National League having been played, except during the 10 days period prior to a Senior Championship Game, or during the 17 days prior to an All-Ireland Senior Final.
Sugrue has no issue with the punishment handed down to Laois. He openly admits that under his guidance the team took part in a training camp two weeks before their opening championship game against Wexford on May 12th.
However, he does have a problem with the GAA not punishing all teams who broke the rule.
In a tongue-in-cheek passage, Sugrue suggests how Laois - like others did in previous years - may bend the rules to allow them hold a training camp outside accepted times.
In a letter first published by Laois Today, the Kerry native writes:
I am writing on my own initiative as manager of the Laois Senior Football team from 2018 and into 2019.
My views are in no way tied to the sentiments of the players, County Board or the people of Laois though I feel they may agree on certain points.
This situation has arose whereby as a direct result of breaking a GAA ruling we are to lose home venue on one of our National League games this year coming. There are a few points I feel are pertinent to highlight in this situation.
- We as a County allowed our players play a full month’s worth of All County League games (4 games completed in the month with all players made available for games. Will the GAA please check what other counties did the same for their clubs?)
- We as a management team under my leadership did take our team on a training weekend two weeks prior to our championship. We stayed within the country and spent our budget in Irish facilities staying with the ‘Buy Irish’ ethos of the GAA.
- We felt that given the intensive nature of a training camp one week would not allow adequate physical or mental recovery from such an intensive training environment. (Our first championship game against Wexford was scheduled for 12 days after the ‘club month’).
- The GAA identified that a number of counties (I believe up to 17) contravened this rule.
- The GAA sent out an email to clarify what each county had done in this respect.
We stated straight up what we had done.
- We got a punishment for our actions (which we were totally aware of prior to undertaking the trip).
- We have no issue with OUR punishment.
To flesh out this debate I feel that the situation where one county does the right thing and stands up for what it has done and takes the consequences is suffering far more than the county who cowers behind mistruths and gets off with any sanctions.
This to my mind continues the trend in seriously questionable stories as well as legal jargon being used in the GAA to excuse ourselves from the consequences of our actions.
2019 in this light appears like it will be a very entertaining year of creative stories used to navigate their way through the rule book. Counties might make it look a little like this:
a.) We might undertake overnight stays in a hotel with a training camp within our own county.
b.) We might book individual flights to two or three airports in a foreign region and then assemble for a hidden training camp (not a new initiative)
c.) We will head back to Kerry and collect receipts from a visit to Daniel O’Connell’s birthplace to ensure we have a historical purpose as the main aspect of our trip.
Further to the above three scenarios I am certain we will see a new raft of evasive stories thought up by those with far better imagination than mine for the 2019 rule evasion.
It’s disappointing in this day and age that we find ourselves in a situation like this where rules that are brought in are not enacted with a gravity of leadership that shows we are intent on doing things better within our Association.
Rules in any land are only as effective as those who enforce them. The other counties have not held up an appropriate level of moral standing in the field of sport, yet I believe that they are not overly responsible for this, rather they have been ushered this way with our rules and rule enforcement that encourage flouting.
So to the crux of the current situation, is it too late to do anything corrective or will we just plough on ahead and further foster this type of activity in our Association?
One rule for all means all should take the consequences for breaking that rule or else the rule is deemed ineffective and don’t enforce it at all in it’s current guise. We have no issue with OUR punishment.
Yours in sport,
Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile